A Disorderly Christmas

A Disorderly Christmas

Hoot’s second Shuttle flight, his first as Commander, was scheduled for 1985, but many delays in the Shuttle program pushed it later and later into the year.  His crew was a great bunch—with several good friends from the Astronaut Corps.  Three members of the crew—Hoot, George “Pinkie” Nelson, and Steve Hawley—had flown before, but it was a first for Charlie Bolden, and Franklin Chang Diaz, as well as Payload Specialists (who would only be...

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A Remarkable Visit

A Remarkable Visit

On January 12, 1986, the crew of STS 61C suited up and headed for the Space Shuttle launch pad.  They had been trying get into orbit since December 18…with many grueling attempts that had worn them (and their families) out.  But this day was the right day: no malfunctioning equipment, no boats in the restricted area off the coast, no weather problems in Florida or at the overseas emergency landing sites.  The countdown proceeded, and soon they...

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Plutonium Brownies

Plutonium Brownies

As can be imagined, the NASA managers and engineers were careful about what went on board the Space Shuttle. Each piece of equipment, each item that went into the stowage lockers, each widget or pair of socks had a part number and was catalogued in voluminous detail for each mission. Nothing could be left behind on the ground; nothing could be there that shouldn’t be. All astronauts understood this was a necessary attention to detail for...

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Heroes

Heroes

What are astronauts really like? These modern-day heroes became my friends in the Shuttle’s heyday.  All are very bright (some brilliant), friendly, hard-working, reliable, and productive.  I had the opportunity to serve twice on selection boards for new astronauts.  We liked to say we were looking for high performing, low maintenance people. That is not to say they were serious all the time.  In fact, they were the most fun-loving people I...

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Teams.

Teams.

How did our nation get to the moon in less than ten years from the time we first sent a man into space? Thousands of people had a hand in that bold adventure. Today I meet them, their children, and their grandchildren who can’t wait to tell me their part in that story with pride. It was not until I got to NASA that I learned to appreciate the true value of teamwork. We had close-knit teams that made sure our spaceflights went well. It took me a...

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Hail, Columbia

Hail, Columbia

On April 12, 1981, I stood near a swamp in Florida with a Search and Rescue team, in case we were needed. We watched the Space Shuttle Columbia, a butterfly bolted to a bullet, roar above the trees and into the sky on its first flight. The magnificence of the moment cannot be described. We cheered, we cried, and we felt so lucky to be present at the birth of the Space Shuttle era. On June 5, 1991, I launched aboard that same vehicle on my...

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