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Veterans Day Salute to NASA’s Military Astronauts

Military Astronaut Infographic

By Bob Granath
NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Each year, Americans pause on Nov. 11 to celebrate Veterans Day. While the date marks the anniversary of the end of World War I, the annual holiday is designed to honor everyone who served and is serving in the armed forces of the United States. Many of those include NASA astronauts.

When the agency selected the first groups of U.S. astronauts, all were military pilots. That held true until selection of the fourth group, selected in 1965. They were scientists, three of whom served in the military.

As NASA approached the space shuttle era, scientists, doctors and engineers were needed along with pilots. The 35 selected in 1978 included the most diverse group to date including the first women and ethnic minorities. The selections included 13 pilot astronauts along with 22 mission specialists. All of the pilots served in the military, as well as 13 of the mission specialists.

With the 12 NASA astronauts selected in the group announced in June this year, the total number of individuals selected by the agency totals 375 — 216 served in one of the branches of the U.S. armed services.

During the April 9, 1959, news conference in which NASA’s “Original Seven” astronauts were announced, John Glenn commented on the sense of duty he felt serving in the Marines and as an astronaut.

“I think we would be almost remiss in our duty if we didn’t make full use of our talents,” he said. “Every one of us would feel guilty, I think, if we didn’t make the fullest use of our talents in volunteering for something that is as important as this is to our country and the world.”

Aboard the International Space Station, Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik, a retired Marine Corps Colonel, Flight Engineers Mark Vande Hei, a retired Army Colonel and Flight Engineer Joe Acaba, a former Marine reservist, paid tribute to veterans who have served the United States in the name of freedom during a downlink message recorded on Nov. 2. The three NASA astronauts asked that veterans never be forgotten, or their sacrifices to maintain democracy and freedom for all Americans. Credits: NASA

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