Four new ‘Heroes and Legends’ join U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla — The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame welcomed four new members into its prestigious ranks on Saturday, May 30 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. On the 25th anniversary of the opening of the AHoF, John Grunsfeld, Steve Lindsey, Kent Rominger and Rhea Seddon became the latest inductees, and they will now join a group that includes the likes of John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Sally Ride.
Every year, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame inducts a handful of new members into its ranks, but it is not every year that this falls on such an anniversary – one denoted by yesterday’s groundbreaking ceremony of the new “Heroes and Legends” facility at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Entering into such renowned company – was something this year’s inductees noted afterward.
“The original Mercury astronauts who started the Astronaut Hall of Fame were all my childhood heroes,” Rominger said. “I’m incredibly honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame and become part of that distinguished crowd.”
The ceremony was the second held under Space Shuttle Atlantis in its $100 million exhibit. Some 25 fellow astronauts were present – all current Hall of Fame members – to welcome the four new members.
This year’s inductees include a commander of one of the final three shuttle missions – a self-confessed “Hubble Hugger” as well as an astronaut working to produce the next-generation launch vehicle that NASA plans to use to send crews to destinations far beyond Earth.
John M. Grunsfeld
John Grunsfeld was named Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C., in January 2012. Grunsfeld previously served as the Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, managing the science program for the Hubble Space Telescope and the forthcoming James Webb Space Telescope. Grunsfeld’s background includes research in high energy astrophysics, in cosmic ray physics, and in the emerging field of exoplanet studies with specific interest in future astronomical instrumentation.
Grunsfeld joined NASA’s Astronaut Office in 1992. He is veteran of five space shuttle flights, and he visited Hubble three times during these missions. He also performed eight spacewalks to service and upgrade the observatory. He logged more than 58 days in space during his flights to orbit, including 58 hours and 30 minutes of spacewalk time. Grunsfeld first flew to space aboard Endeavour in March 1995 on a mission that studied the far ultraviolet spectra of faint astronomical objects using the Astro-2 Observatory.
His second flight was aboard Atlantis in January 1997. The mission docked with the Russian space station Mir, exchanged U.S. astronauts living aboard the outpost, and performed scientific research using the Biorack payload. He also flew on Discovery in December 1999, Columbia in March 2002 and Atlantis in May 2009. This last flight successfully serviced and upgraded the Hubble Space Telescope, during which he was lead spacewalker for Hubble servicing activities. In 2004 and 2005, he served as the commander and science officer on the backup crew for Expedition 13 to the International Space Station.
Steven W. Lindsey
Lindsey was selected by NASA in March 1995, becoming an astronaut in May 1996 and qualified for flight assignment as a pilot. Initially assigned to flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, Lindsey also worked on the Multifunction Electronic Display System (MEDS ) program – a glass cockpit space shuttle upgrade program – as well as a number of other advanced upgrade projects. In between his first two flights, he worked as the shuttle landing and rollout representative, responsible for training flight crews and testing orbiter landing techniques and flying qualities.
STS-87 (November 19 to December 5, 1997) was the fourth U.S. Microgravity Payload flight and focused on experiments designed to study how the weightless environment of space affects various physical processes, and also on studying observations of the Sun’s outer atmospheric layers.
Lindsey next took to the skies on STS-95 (October 29 to November 7, 1998) which was a 9-day mission during which the crew supported a variety of research payloads, including deployment and retrieval of the Spartan solar-observing spacecraft, the Hubble Space Telescope Orbital Systems Test Platform, and investigations on spaceflight and the aging process.
Lindsey commanded Space Shuttle Atlantis on mission STS-104 (July 12 to July 24, 2001) on a mission designated assembly mission 7A, which was the 10th mission to the International Space Station (ISS). During the 13-day flight, the crew conducted joint operations with the Expedition 2 crew and performed three spacewalks to install the ISS joint airlock Quest.
Lindsey’s third trip to orbit was as commander of STS-121 (July 4 to July 17, 2006), which was a return-to-flight test mission and assembly flight to the International Space Station. During the 13-day flight, the crew of Space Shuttle Discovery tested new equipment and procedures that increased the safety of space shuttles, repaired a rail car on the International Space Station, and produced never-before-seen, high-resolution images of the shuttle during and after its July 4 launch.
STS-133 (February 24 to March 9, 2011) was the 39th and final mission for Space Shuttle Discovery. During the 13-day flight, the Discovery crew, with Lindsey again in command, delivered the Permanent Multipurpose Module (PMM) and the fourth Express Logistics Carrier (ELC) to the ISS. The crew also delivered critical spare components, including Robonaut 2, or R2, the first human-like robot in space.
Lindsey retired from NASA on July 15, 2011 and is now working with Sierra Nevada Corporation as the company’s senior director of Space Exploration Systems. Lindsey is using his experience to help SNC to develop the commercially-produced Dream Chaser space shuttle.
“Since joining SNC in 2011, Steve has been an integral part of the Dream Chaser program,” said Mark N. Sirangelo, corporate vice president, SNC’s Space Systems. “I’ve had the privilege to work alongside him for several years. His knowledge and extraordinary background have been invaluable assets to our program. His dedication, passion and unceasing energy are a true embodiment of the SNC spirit. Congratulations Steve, on this well-deserved honor.”
Selected by NASA in March 1992, Rominger reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1992. He completed one year of training and is qualified for assignment as a pilot on future Space Shuttle flight crews. Rominger was initially assigned to work technical issues for the Astronaut Office Operations Development Branch. He also served as Chief of the Astronaut Office Shuttle Operations Branch, Deputy Director, Flight Crew Operations, and Chief of the Astronaut Corps. A veteran of five space flights, Rominger logged over 1,600 hours in space. He flew as the pilot on STS-73 (1995), STS-80 (1996) and STS-85 (1997), and was the crew commander on STS-96 (1999) and STS-100 (2001). In April 2005, he retired from the Navy.
STS-73 Columbia (October 20 to November 5, 1995) was the second United States Microgravity Laboratory mission. The mission focused on materials science, biotechnology, combustion science, the physics of fluids, and numerous scientific experiments housed in the pressurized Spacelab module. In completing his first space flight, Rominger orbited the Earth 256 times, traveled over 6 million miles, and logged a total of 15 days, 21 hours and 52 minutes in space.
STS-80 Columbia (November 19 to December 7, 1996) was a 17-day mission during which the crew deployed and retrieved the Wake Shield Facility (WSF ) and the Orbiting Retrievable Far and Extreme Ultraviolet Spectrometer (ORFEUS ) satellites. The free-flying WSF created a super vacuum in its wake and grew thin film wafers for use in semiconductors and other high-tech electrical components. The ORFEUS instruments, mounted on the reusable Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS ), studied the origin and makeup of stars. In completing his second spaceflight, Rominger orbited the Earth a record 278 times, traveled over 7 million miles, and logged 17 days, 15 hours and 53 minutes in space.
STS-85 Discovery (August 7-19, 1997) was a 12-day mission during which the crew deployed and retrieved the CRISTA-SPAS satellite, operated the Japanese Manipulator Flight Demonstration (MFD ) robotic arm, studied changes in the Earth’s atmosphere, and tested technology destined for use on the future International Space Station. The mission was accomplished in 189 Earth orbits, traveling 4.7 million miles in 11 days, 20 hours and 27 minutes.
STS-96 Discovery (May 27 to June 6, 1999) was a 10-day mission during which the crew delivered 4 tons of logistics and supplies to the International Space Station in preparation for the arrival of the first crew to live on the station. The mission included the first docking of a Space Shuttle to the International Space Station and was accomplished in 153 Earth orbits, traveling 4 million miles in 9 days, 19 hours and 13 minutes.
STS-100 Endeavour (April 19 to May 1, 2001) was a 12-day mission during which the crew installed the Canadian-built Canadarm2 robotic arm and the Raffaello Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM-2 ) to the International Space Station. Endeavour was docked 8-days on the most complex robotics flight in the history of the Space Shuttle program and was made up of a very diverse international crew, representing the United States, Russia, Canada, and Italy.
Rominger retired from NASA in September 2006 to accept a position with ATK Launch Systems (now Orbital ATK ) having retired from the Navy in 2005. Orbital ATK is the company that is producing the powerful five-segment solid rocket boosters which will be used on the first flights of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS ).
Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978, Dr. Seddon became an astronaut in August 1979. Her work at NASA has been in a variety of areas, including Orbiter and payload software, Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, Flight Data File, Shuttle medical kit and checklist, launch and landing rescue helicopter physician, support crew member for STS-6, crew equipment, membership on NASA’s Aerospace Medical Advisory Committee, Technical Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations, and crew communicator (CAPCOM) in the Mission Control Center.
Seddon was Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations for Shuttle/Mir Payloads. A three-flight veteran with more than 722 hours in space, Dr. Seddon was a mission specialist on STS-51D (1985) and STS-40 (1991), and was the payload commander on STS-58 (1993). In September 1996, she was detailed by NASA to Vanderbilt University Medical School in Nashville, Tennessee. She assisted in the preparation of cardiovascular experiments which flew aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the Neurolab Spacelab flight in April 1998.
STS-51D was conducted from April 12-19, 1985, onboard Space Shuttle Discovery and was launched from and returned to land at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The crew deployed ANIK-C for Telesat of Canada, and Syncom IV-3 for the U.S. Navy. A malfunction in the Syncom spacecraft resulted in the first unscheduled EVA (spacewalk), rendezvous, and proximity operations for the Space Shuttle in an attempt to activate the satellite using the Remote Manipulator System.
Seddon’s next flight was STS-40, which took place on Space Shuttle Columbia Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS-1), June 5-14, 1991, a dedicated space and life sciences mission launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During the nine-day mission, the crew performed experiments which explored how humans, animals, and cells respond to microgravity and re-adapt to Earth’s gravity on return. Other payloads included experiments designed to investigate materials science, plant biology, and cosmic radiation, and also tests of hardware proposed for the Space Station Freedom Health Maintenance Facility.
STS-58 was Seddon’s last trip to orbit and was also on Columbia. The mission flew Spacelab Life Sciences-2, and lasted from October 18 to November 1, 1993. Dr. Seddon was the Payload Commander on this life science research mission which received NASA management recognition as the most successful and efficient Spacelab flown to date. During the fourteen day flight, the seven-person crew performed neurovestibular, cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, metabolic, and musculoskeletal medical experiments on themselves and 48 rats, expanding our knowledge of human and animal physiology both on Earth and in space flight. In addition, the crew performed 10 engineering tests aboard Columbia and 9 Extended Duration Orbiter Medical Project experiments.
Dr. Seddon retired from NASA in November 1997. She is now the assistant Chief Medical Officer of the Vanderbilt Medical Group in Nashville, Tennessee.
Each new inductee had their own unique, surprising and funny stories to tell. Grunsfeld, it turns out, had forgotten a code word that would let him know his tether was drifting too close to the Hubble Space Telescope. This led to a humorous exchange about the exact location of Madagascar.
“If you’re out there on an EVA and you’re starting to wrap your tether around a solar panel… that’s not cool. You don’t want your buddy to say on open air-to-ground ‘Hey, get your tether away from the solar arrays!’,” Steve Hawley said during Grunsfeld’s introduction. “If something went wrong he and his friend had developed a code word – Madagascar. So during one EVA, John is working around HST and his buddy sees his tether drifting dangerously close to the solar panels, and says, ‘Hey, John – Madagascar.’ John looks up at the Earth and says, ‘No, that’s South America.’ (laughs) And his buddy goes, ‘No, John – Madagascar!’ and he goes… ‘No, I’m sure that’s South America.'”
For Steve Lindsey, the normally reserved astronaut became very excited when his pending status of grandfather was mentioned. He also noted that he felt grateful to have the support of so many of his colleagues.
“So many of you mentored me. Thank you for being there for me, and believing in me,” Lindsey said.
Kent Rominger, also known for his calm demeanor, became emotional and highlighted the fact that his family played a big part in his success. Rominger was the head of the Astronaut Office when Space Shuttle Columbia was lost in 2003, a fact that Robert Cabana, the current Kennedy Space Center director, noted during his introduction for Rominger.
“There was no one better than Kent to lead the astronaut office during this time, and lead us on the path to return to flight,” Cabana said.
For Rhea Seddon, the introduction, provided by her astronaut spouse, Robert “Hoot” Gibson, who, upon announcing her inclusion, became emotional, letting his normally cool fighter-pilot control slip, providing a warm opening to his wife of 34 years. She, in turn, noted that being a part of the first six women astronauts to be selected by NASA made her role particularly challenging. When she had stitched something together on orbit, someone in mission control noted that she was a good seamstress. Sally Ride, who was serving as CAPCOM at the time, corrected them by stating: “… she’s not a seamstress – she’s a surgeon.” A simple correction, but one that helped adjust the all-male mindset of NASA around that time.
In spite of working under intense scrutiny, the first class of female astronauts went on to ultimately prove, as Gibson noted, that female astronauts could perform as well as, if not better than, their male counterparts. While working through the stereotypes, Seddon displayed grace and a sense of humor, even at her husband’s colorful sense of humor.
“We knew we were working under a microscope. If something went wrong people would now say ‘Rhea made a mistake’, they would say ‘women can’t do this job’. I was honored to be part of that initial group,” Seddon said.
Four-time shuttle veteran and current NASA administrator Charlie Bolden offered his congratulations to the new inductees. “This is an exciting and emotional weekend. I have the deepest respect for everything these four have achieved and the inspiration they offer to others,” he said.
Once a year, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame welcomes new members into its ranks. These are selected by former astronauts, industry officials and journalists who are involved with the space program.
Video courtesy of NASA
Astronaut biographies courtesy of NASA’s Johnson Space Center.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.