KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., Jan. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The first American woman to walk in space, the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission commander, the first African-American to command a spaceship, the first American to occupy Russia's Mir space station, and the commander of the 1986 ill- fated Challenger 51-L have been chosen for 2004 induction in the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Joining such illustrious American icons as Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, John Glenn and Sally Ride as Hall of Fame inductees will be: Kathryn D. Sullivan, Richard O. Covey, Frederick D. Gregory, Norman E. Thagard and Francis R. Dick Scobee, who will be represented by June Scobee. The honorees will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame during a May 1 public ceremony at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Sullivan, as America's third female astronaut, made history as the United States' first woman space-walker during her 1984 inaugural Shuttle flight when she and David Leetsma slipped into Challenger's open cargo bay to practice techniques for refueling out-of-gas orbiting satellites. On two later missions Sullivan helped launch the Hubble Space Telescope and made an extensive study of Earth's resources. A four-time Space Shuttle flyer, Covey distinguished himself as both commander of the Hubble Space Telescope repair mission and as pilot of the Shuttle program's critical return-to-flight mission following the 1986 Challenger disaster. While he also flew on Discovery in 1985 and Atlantis in 1990, much more visible was Covey's 1993 command of Endeavour on the most difficult space repair mission ever attempted. He was also in a high-profile position as pilot of the Discovery in 1988, when he and four other veteran Shuttle fliers were the first to fly in the redesigned spacecraft following the Challenger incident. Covey currently serves as co-chairman of the Stafford-Covey Return to Flight Task Group, which is making an independent assessment of NASA's implementation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board Space Shuttle return to flight recommendations. Gregory flew on three Shuttle missions, the first as pilot of Challenger which shot into orbit in 1985 with a crew of seven and a menagerie of 24 rats and two squirrel monkeys who were along to test cages designed for future animal research in space. He became the first African-American to command a space mission when he guided Discovery in 1989 on a secret Defense Department flight and again commanded a military mission with the 1991 launch of Atlantis. Since leaving the astronaut corps, Gregory has held various positions within NASA and is now the agency's second in command. After serving in various capacities on 1983, 1985, 1989 and 1993 Shuttle flights, Florida native Thagard rode into space in a Soyuz spacecraft launched from Russia's Baikonur Cosmodrome. The spacecraft docked at the Mir space station, where Thagard spent 115 days, working on 28 different experiments before returning to Earth aboard Shuttle Atlantis. Scobee was the pilot aboard Challenger in 1984 on the world's first mission to repair a satellite in orbit. The shuttle was launched on a week-long journey in pursuit of the Solar Max sun-study satellite, which had been disabled in orbit for three years. The satellite was snared, refurbished and set free to resume its study of the sun. Scobee was aboard Challenger again on January 28, 1986, this time as commander with six crewmates, when it lifted off on a frigid day. Fifty-eight seconds later, a tongue of flame burst through a solid fuel booster rocket, igniting a reaction that destroyed the Shuttle and its seven crew members. This year's inductees were selected by a blue-ribbon committee composed of former NASA officials and flight controllers, journalists, historians and other space authorities in a process administered by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. To be eligible for induction, an individual must be a U.S. citizen and a NASA astronaut and must have been out of the active astronaut corps at least five years. Committee members consider not only an astronaut's accomplishments in space, but how he or she contributed to the advancement of space exploration both before and after his or her mission This is the third group of Space Shuttle astronauts selected for induction into the Hall of Fame. Once inducted, they will increase the number of space explorers enshrined there to 57. Earlier inductees came from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs. Special induction ticket packages including brunch or lunch with Hall of Fame astronauts are available online at www.kennedyspacecenter.com or by calling (321) 449-4444. About the Astronaut Hall of Fame: In 1984, the Mercury Seven Foundation was established by the six surviving members of America's original Mercury astronauts and Mrs. Betty Grissom, widow of the seventh, to create a site where space travelers could be remembered. Their dream was realized in 1990 when the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame opened. The Foundation also sought to preserve the United States' leadership role in science and technology through the provision of scholarships to college students pursuing degrees in the fields of science and engineering. In 1995, with the realization the Mercury astronauts would not be able to raise scholarship funds forever, the Foundation broadened its membership to include astronauts from the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs and changed its name to the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Today, the foundation funds $144,500 in scholarships annually. In December 2002, the Astronaut Hall of Fame was acquired by NASA and Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts (DNPR), which operates the Visitor Complex on NASA's behalf. Under an agreement with DNPR, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation serves as a consultant in the operation of the Hall of Fame. The foundation's duties include supervising the selection, by an outside committee, of astronauts for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame; obtaining their personal artifacts for display in the museum; participating in their induction ceremonies; and working with DNPR and NASA on special events. In return, DNPR contributes to the foundation's scholarship program.
SOURCE Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex