CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- KENNEDY SPACE CENTER – Space Shuttle astronauts Curt Brown, Eileen Collins and Bonnie Dunbar, Ph.D., today joined an elite group of American space heroes with their induction into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® during a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
The three astronauts join the ranks of legendary space pioneers in the Hall of Fame such as Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, Sally Ride and John Young. Their induction as the 12th group of space shuttle astronauts to be enshrined brings the number of space explorers in the Hall of Fame to 85. Earlier inductees represent the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs.
Brown is a veteran of six space shuttle flights from 1992 to 1999, serving as a pilot three times and commander three times. He was the commander for the 1998 Discovery mission for the return to space of then-Sen. John Glenn, who in 1962 was the first American to orbit the Earth.
Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot and also first to command a space shuttle, including serving as commander for the first mission after the Columbia disaster. Collins served on four shuttle mission crews from 1995 to 2005.
Bonnie Dunbar served as a shuttle mission specialist and payload commander on five shuttle missions from 1985 to 1998. She has received many awards, including NASA's Outstanding Leadership Award in 1993.
The induction of Collins and Dunbar marks the first time two women have entered the Hall of Fame at the same time. Fittingly, June 18, 2013, will mark the 30th anniversary of Sally Ride becoming the first American women in space when she was a member of the seventh space shuttle mission, on Challenger.
The three retired space shuttle astronauts also share a commonality in their spaceflight history in that each flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis at least once. Atlantis is the centerpiece of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction, opening June 29, which will tell the incredible story of NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle Program.
The 2013 inductees were selected by a committee of current Hall of Fame astronauts, former NASA officials, flight directors, historians and journalists. The process is administered by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. To be eligible, an astronaut must have made his or her first flight at least 17 years before the induction year and must be retired at least five years from the NASA astronaut corps. Candidates must be a U.S. citizen and a NASA-trained commander, pilot or mission specialist who has orbited the earth at least once.
Astronaut Curt Brown is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and a veteran of six spaceflights, during which he logged more than 1,380 hours – 57 days – in space. Brown first served as pilot for STS-47 aboard space shuttle Endeavor in 1992. He next served as pilot for STS-66 in 1994 aboard Atlantis in 1996. On STS-77, his third time as pilot, Brown assisted the crew aboard space shuttle Endeavor as it performed a record number of rendezvous sequences, including the deployment and retrieval of a Spartan satellite. Brown's fourth spaceflight was as STS-85 commander aboard Discovery in 1997. Brown was commander of Discovery again for STS-95 in 1998, the historic mission that marked then-Sen. John Glenn's triumphant return to space 36 years after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth. A year later Brown completed his third run as commander aboard space shuttle Discovery on STS-103, the focus of which was the installation of new instruments and upgraded systems on the Hubble Space Telescope. During his time at NASA, Brown served as the Astronaut Office lead of shuttle operations and deputy director of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate.
Astronaut Eileen Collins is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and veteran of four spaceflights. Collins first made history in 1995 as the pilot of Discovery on STS-63, becoming the first woman space shuttle pilot. After a second spaceflight aboard Atlantis on STS-84, Collins again made history, this time as commander of Columbia on STS-93. During this mission, she and her crew deployed the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, a telescope that enabled scientists to study phenomena such as exploding stars, quasars and black holes. Collins served as commander again in 2005 on the historic "Return to Flight" mission, during which STS-114 crew docked space shuttle Discovery at the International Space Station to test and evaluate new procedures for flight safety, shuttle inspection and repair techniques. Before her retirement from NASA in 2006, Collins logged more than 872 hours – about 33 days – in space. Since then, she has worked with CNN as a space shuttle analyst, and served as an aerospace industry consultant and an advisor to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute.
Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, who holds a doctorate in Mechanical/Biomedical Engineering from the University of Houston, is a veteran of five spaceflights. Her first was as mission specialist for STS-61A aboard space shuttle Challenger in 1985; her second, was as mission specialist aboard Columbia for STS-32. Dunbar served as payload commander on STS-50 in 1992, during which she helped complete the first dedicated U.S. Micro-gravity Laboratory flight. In 1995, Dunbar again made space history aboard Atlantis on STS-71, the first space shuttle to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. On her final mission in 1998, Dunbar served as payload commander on STS-89, the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission. During her time with NASA, Dunbar logged more than 1,200 hours – 50 days – in space and earned NASA's Outstanding Leadership Award as well as NASA's Exceptional Service Medal, twice. She served as assistant director to the NASA Johnson Space Center, deputy associate director for biological sciences and applications, and associate director, technology integration and risk management. Dunbar retired from NASA in 2005 to serve as president and CEO of the Seattle Museum of Flight.
About Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex brings to life the epic story of the U.S. space program, offering a full day or more of fun and educational activities, including the Kennedy Space Center Tour featuring the Saturn V Center with an actual Saturn V moon rocket, the new Angry Birds™ Space Encounter, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX® space films, Astronaut Encounter, Exploration Space: Explorers Wanted and many other interactive exhibits. The new $100 million home for Space Shuttle AtlantisSM opens June 29, 2013. Admission also includes the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®, featuring historic spacecraft and the world's largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia, which opens daily at noon and closing times vary by season. Only 45 minutes from Orlando, Fla., Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. with closing times varying by season. Admission is $50 + tax for adults and $40 + tax for children ages 3-11. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Commander's Club Annual Pass is $63 + tax for adults and $53 + tax for children ages 3-11. For more information, call 877-313-2610 or visit www.KennedySpaceCenter.com.
About the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation participated in creating a venue where space travelers could be remembered – the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame, which opened in 1990. Today, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation serves as a consultant for the Hall of Fame, which includes conducting the selection process of astronauts for enshrinement by an outside committee. The Foundation's mission is to aid the U.S. in retaining its world leadership in science and technology by providing scholarships to exceptional college students who exhibit motivation, imagination and exceptional performance in these fields. ASF funds twenty-eight $10,000 scholarships annually and has awarded $3.5 million to deserving students nationwide. More than 100 astronauts from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Space Shuttle and Space Station programs participate in this educational endeavor. For more information, call 321-455-7012 or log on to www.AstronautScholarship.org.
SOURCE Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex