NASA Astronaut Hank Hartsfield, Led First Flight of Space Shuttle Discovery, Dies at 80
HOUSTON, July 18, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Former NASA astronaut Henry W. (Hank) Hartsfield Jr., who served as commander of space shuttle Discovery's maiden mission and flew on three shuttle flights, died on July 17 after an illness. He was 80 years old.
After his final shuttle flight, Hartsfield served in a number of NASA administrative posts, including deputy chief of the astronaut office, deputy director for flight crew operations and director of the Technical Integration and Analysis Division at NASA Headquarters.
Next he became deputy manager for operations in the Space Station Operations Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Back at the Johnson Space Center in Houston he worked in the Space Station Freedom Program and later as manager of the International Space Station Independence Assessment Team.
He later became NASA's director of independent assurance for Human Exploration and Development of Space.
Hartsfield was born Nov. 21, 1933, in Birmingham, Alabama. He graduated from West End High School in Birmingham and in 1954 earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Auburn University. Hartsfield did his graduate work in physics at Duke University and studied astronautics at the Air Force Institute of Technology. He earned a master's degree in engineering science from the University of Tennessee in 1971.
He received his commission through Auburn's Reserve Officer Training Program before entering the Air Force in 1955. His assignments included a tour with the 53rd Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bitburg, Germany. He graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and later became an instructor there. He has more than 7,400 hours flying time. Of those more than 6,150 hours are jets. They include the F-86, F-100, F-104, F-105, F-106, T-33 and T-38.
In 1966 he was assigned to the Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program as an astronaut. After that program was cancelled in 1969, he joined NASA, where he was part of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 16 and the Skylab 2, 3 and 4 missions. Hartsfield retired from the Air Force in 1977 as a colonel with more than 22 years of active service. He remained at NASA as a civilian astronaut. He helped develop the shuttle entry flight control system and its interfaces.
Hartsfield then served as backup pilot for STS-2 in 1981 and STS-3 in 1982, space shuttle Columbia's second and third orbital flight tests.
He was the pilot of Columbia on STS-4 in 1982, the final flight test of the shuttle program. He and mission commander Thomas K. Mattingly completed their weeklong mission on July 4 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., where they were welcomed by President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan among a crowd estimated at one million people that gathered in the Mojave Desert.
Hartsfield then commanded STS-41D, Discovery's first flight on Aug. 30, 1984. The mission of just more than six days included the deployment of three communications satellites and a number of scientific experiments.
Hartsfield later commanded STS-61A, a flight aboard the shuttle Challenger that launched on Oct. 30, 1985. The mission featured the European-built Spacelab science module and the largest crew ever to fly on a shuttle mission --- eight people.
On his three flights, Hartsfield logged 483 hours in space.
Hartsfield's numerous decorations and awards include the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal and the General Thomas D. White Space Trophy. He was inducted into the Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame in 1983. He received the Defense Department's Distinguished Civilian Service Award in 1982. He received NASA's Distinguished Service Medals in 1982 and 1988, NASA Space Flight Medals in 1982, 1984 and 1985 and NASA's Exceptional Service Medal. He received an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Auburn University in 1986 and attained the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service in 1996.
He was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2006.
After his series of management jobs, Hartsfield retired from NASA and joined Raytheon Corp. in Houston. He retired from Raytheon in April 2005.