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Dean Acosta/Bob Jacobs
Headquarters, Washington
(202) 358-1400/1600

April 27, 2006
RELEASE : 06-205
Former NASA Astronaut Robert L. Crippen Honored With Congressional Space Medal of Honor
At a ceremony in Washington to commemorate the 25th anniversary of NASA’S maiden flight of the space shuttle, the pilot of that historic mission was honored with the nation's highest award for spaceflight achievement, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

STS-1 astronaut Robert L. Crippen was presented the award last night by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin in the name of President George W. Bush and on behalf of the U.S. Congress.

"This medal, awarded by the Congress of the United States, commemorates publicly what all of us who know Bob Crippen already understood: he is an authentic American hero," Griffin said. "He holds an unsurpassed record of dedicated service to this country as a military aviator, test pilot, engineer, and astronaut, including his assignment as pilot for the historic STS-1 mission, recognized with this award. And no one has more effectively applied such an extensive operational background more to the demands of senior management in both government and industry. And above all, Crip is a loyal friend to all who know him. We at NASA are honored by his association with our agency."

In receiving the distinction, Crippen said the recognition was unexpected.

"It was such a surprise. I am totally overwhelmed," Crippen said. "Just look at the names of the people who are on the list. They are heroes in the truest sense of the word and I can't believe someone would think to include me in such distinguished company. I'm so honored."

The Congressional Space Medal of Honor was authorized by Congress in 1969 to recognize "any astronaut who in the performance of his duties has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the nation and mankind."

Crippen became a NASA astronaut in September 1969. He was a member of the astronaut support crew throughout the entire Skylab program and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which was completed successfully in July 1975.

For his first mission into space, he was selected for the initial flight of the space shuttle in what is considered the boldest test flight in history. Along with his crewmate, veteran commander and Apollo moonwalker John Young, he successfully piloted the orbiter Columbia on her maiden flight April 12, 1981. The two astronauts tested the space shuttle's systems for two days and 36 orbits before safely gliding the unique spacecraft to a safe landing on a California desert runway.

Crippen went on to command three future space shuttle missions and served in a variety of supervisory positions at NASA before becoming the director for the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where he safely managed 22 space shuttle flights. Young was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in May 1981. Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first recipient of the award in 1978 as part of a celebration to mark NASA's 20th anniversary. Since then, a total of 28 astronauts have now received this prestigious recognition of their service, bravery, and dedication.

Past honorees include:

Neil Armstrong
Frank Borman
Charles "Pete" Conrad
U.S. Sen. John Glenn
Virgil "Gus" Grissom
Alan Shepard
John Young
Thomas Stafford
James Lovell
Shannon Lucid
Roger Chaffee
Edward White
William Shepherd
Dick Scobee
Michael Smith
Judith Resnik
Ellison Onizuka
Ronald McNair
Greg Jarvis
Christa McAuliffe
Rick Husband
Willie McCool
Michael P. Anderson
Kalpana Chawla
David M. Brown
Laurel Clark
Ilan Ramon

For more information about Crippen, the first flight of the space shuttle, and NASA, visit:


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