Three space shuttle veterans were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex today at 3 p.m. The ceremony was carried on NASA Television. The three astronauts included into the hall of fame this year were Franklin R. Chang-Díaz, Kevin P. Chilton and Charles J. Precourt.
The trio joins human space flight legends such as John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, and Jim Lovell. With their inclusion, the total number of astronauts in the AHoF now stands at 82.
Chang-Diaz is a part of the 1980 group of astronauts and has flown into space seven times aboard NASA’s retired fleet of orbiters. During his time with the space agency he logged more than 1,601 hours on orbit. After leaving NASA in 2005, Chang-Diaz founded the Ad Astra Rocket Company. The company’s efforts are focused on developing the Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket, more commonly known as VASIMR. This engine could revolutionize space flight as we know it, theoretically reducing the travel time to Mars to approximately 40 days.
Charlie Precourt flew into space four times; three of those trips were to the Russian space station Mir. Precourt was part of NASA’s 1990 group of astronauts. When not training for a mission he held a variety of roles within the space agency. From serving as the chief of the astronaut office to managing the day-to-day operations of the International Space Station (ISS) Precourt was instrumental in many crucial aspects of the space agency. Having logged 934 hours in space, Precourt retired from NASA in 2004. Following his time with NASA he went to work for Alliant Techsystems (ATK) as the company’s Vice-President.
General Kevin P. Chilton became an astronaut in 1988 and flew into space three times and logged more than 704 hours on orbit. Chilton was the pilot on the maiden voyage of space shuttle Endeavour, STS-49. He too traveled to the Russian space station Mir as commander of STS-76. He also was part of the all-astronaut band Max-Q where he performed as a guitarist. Chilton left NASA in 1998 to resume his career as a U.S. Air Force officer. Chilton would go on to become a four-star general – making him the only astronaut so far to accomplish this.
More than 30 Hall of Fame astronauts were in attendance. Some of these include Mercury astronaut Scott Carpenter, Apollo astronaut Walt Cunningham and space shuttle astronaut Bruce McCandless.
Guests attending this weekend’s events were treated to appearances by numerous astronauts. Bob Crippen, the pilot on the first shuttle mission, STS-1 and Kathryn Thornton, a record-breaking spacewalker conducted special Astronaut Encounters on May 5 more are scheduled for tomorrow. Apollo 16 Moonwalker astronaut, Charlie Duke conducted a signing of his appropriately-named book “Moonwalker” at 10:15 a.m. this morning.
“This is a tremendous honor, obviously it is very humbling,” said Precourt during the ceremony. “We’ve had opportunities in the space program that go beyond our wildest dreams – I’m particularly glad that I get to be part of the group included this year that includes Franklin and Chilly”