Four space shuttle veterans, whose careers spanned from the nascent beginnings to the end of the 30-year-long program, were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday, May 30, under Space Shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (KSCVC). Astronauts John Grunsfeld (STS-67, STS-81, STS-103, STS-109, and STS-125), Steve Lindsey (STS-87, STS-95, STS-104, STS-121, and STS-133), Kent Rominger (STS-73, STS-80, STS-85, STS-96, and STS-100), and Dr. Rhea Seddon (STS-51D, STS-40, and STS-58) were welcomed into the fold by their astronaut colleagues, comprising the 14th group of shuttle astronauts to enter the Hall of Fame.
These astronauts’ career milestones encompassed servicing the Hubble Space Telescope multiple times (Grunsfeld), visiting and helping to build the International Space Station (Lindsey and Rominger), and pioneering life sciences studies in space while shattering the glass ceiling for women astronauts (Seddon, among the first six women astronauts chosen in the 1978 astronaut group). According to KSCVC, the selection process was undertaken by a committee of fellow Hall of Famers, former NASA officials, flight directors, space historians, and journalists, while being administered by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF). On the evening of May 29, ASF held a gala celebrating the Hall of Fame inductions at KSCVC’s Apollo/Saturn V Center.
The ceremony was emceed by CNN’s John Zarrella and was well-attended by members of the public and other Hall of Fame astronauts including: Bonnie Dunbar, Robert “Hoot” Gibson, Fred Gregory, Rick Hauck, Steve Hawley, Jeff Hoffman, Jack Lousma, Bruce McCandless, Jerry Ross, Brewster Shaw, Loren Shriver, Al Worden, John Blaha, Karol “Bo” Bobko, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Dan Brandenstein, Curt Brown, Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, Franklin Chang Diaz, Mike Coats, Eileen Collins, Dick Covey, Bob Crippen, Frank Culbertson, and Walt Cunningham.
Bolden, a four-time shuttle veteran, discussed the significance of the inductions and its participants during the ceremony’s opening remarks: “This, for me, always tends to be an emotional and moving weekend … The men and woman recognized today help us realize that not only is NASA one big family, but it’s also a family that belongs to the American people … I offer my deepest congratulations to the four inductees today. John, Steve, Kent, and Rhea – you have our respect for what you’ve achieved in space, and the examples you set for others, and most importantly, the inspiration that you have given to future generations to take us on our journey to Mars. We have here, at this weekend’s celebrations, astronauts representing the full spectrum of NASA’s history to date. Each time we close one chapter, there has always been another challenge to pursue.”
Perhaps the most moving moment of the ceremony occurred when Gibson, who married Seddon in 1981, gave emotional remarks prior to his wife and colleague’s induction. “We enjoyed flying eight missions between the two of us … What an experience it has been for us; what a journey it has been for us. Rhea, life with you has been beyond my wildest dreams. On behalf of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, you are inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.” Seddon’s biography, Go For Orbit, was published this past week; the book discusses her experiences as a surgeon, astronaut, wife, and mother of three.
This ceremony comes a day after KSCVC held a groundbreaking ceremony attended by many Hall of Fame astronauts, including Cabana and Bolden, for a new attraction called “Heroes and Legends,” slated to open during 2016. According to KSCVC, the attraction “ … not only will bring to life the enthralling stories of America’s pioneering astronauts, but also invite guests to vicariously experience the thrills and dangers America’s earliest missions through high-tech, interactive show elements and special effects, including simulated holograms, augmented reality and a 3D omnidirectional theater experience.” Heroes and Legends will also feature the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Moreover, KSCVC stated that Heroes and Legends will “transform” the area around the Early Space Exploration exhibit and will be incorporated into the Rocket Garden, which treats guests to views of a selection of America’s vintage rocket fleet.