Three history-making space fliers to enter Astronaut Hall of Fame in May

February 27th, 2020

Photos: NASA

By Robert Z. Pearlman

A record-setting spacewalker, one of only two women who commanded the space shuttle and the American who logged the longest U.S. spaceflight to date will be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame this spring.

Michael Lopez-Alegria, Pamela Melroy and Scott Kelly, who between them flew on 10 missions to the Hubble Space Telescope and International Space Station, will be honored for their careers as veteran NASA astronauts. Their enshrinement, at a public ceremony to be held at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida on May 16, will raise the Astronaut Hall of Fame’s ranks to 102 members out of the almost 350 men and women who have been part of NASA’s corps since 1959.

“As we enter the year 2020, we are particularly excited to welcome these accomplished astronauts into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame,” Curt Brown, a 2013 inductee and the board chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which oversees the selection process, said in a statement. “They exemplify bravery, dedication and passion and their hard work has paved the way for what promises to be an unprecedented new decade of space exploration and interplanetary travel.”

Reacting to their selection, Lopez-Alegria, Melroy and Kelly each said they were honored in interviews conducted individually with collectSPACE.com. “I really had no idea what the odds were, but I am very, very proud of having been picked,” said Lopez-Alegria. “I am humbled that my peers and the distinguished people who made this decision were even considering me,” Melroy said. “I am also very excited, it is going to be a wonderful thing.” “It is an honor,” said Kelly. “It is a career that I put 20 years of my life into, so it is great to be recognized and appreciated.”

Chosen to be astronauts as members of consecutive NASA classes in 1992, 1994 and 1996 respectively, Lopez-Alegria, Melroy and Kelly had overlapping careers.

Michael Lopez-Alegria
Michael Lopez-Alegria flew four times to space, logging more than 257 days off the planet. A retired U.S. Navy captain, naval aviator and one-time aquanaut as a member of a NASA NEEMO mission aboard the Aquarius undersea laboratory in 2001, Lopez-Alegria helped to assemble the International Space Station on shuttle missions STS-73 in 1995, STS-92 in 2000 and STS-113 in 2002.

Lopez-Alegria then commanded Expedition 14, the space station’s 14th resident crew, from September 2006 through April 2007, during which he set records while working outside the orbiting laboratory. He retains the title as the American with the most cumulative time on spacewalks at 67 hours and 40 minutes, and is tied with former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson for the most extravehicular activities (EVAs) by an American at ten.

Beyond his spacewalking feats, Lopez-Alegria said his personal history also sets his astronaut experience apart from many others.
“If you look at my 23andMe [DNA profile], I am not American in any way, shape or form,” he said with a laugh, referring to his being born in Spain. “That might be an inspiration for kids in a similar situation.”

“It doesn’t necessarily have to do with the human factors of space, but it is spaceflight done by someone who doesn’t look or feel like everyone else,” he said.

Since leaving NASA in 2012, Lopez-Alegria has served as the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation and as a consultant to traditional and commercial space companies. He also is the past president of the Association of Space Explorers, an international professional and educational organization of current and former astronauts, including Melroy and Kelly.

Pamela Melroy
Pamela Melroy flew the first of her three space shuttle missions with Lopez-Alegria as a crewmate.

“She was the only rookie on the crew and she was drinking from a fire hose the whole time but never spilled a drop,” said Lopez-Alegria of his fellow inductee. “It was so amazing to watch her transform from ‘the rookie’ throughout training and even on launch day to the time we were ready to deorbit to the seasoned veteran.”

“Her metamorphosis was brilliant to watch,” he said.

“Mike has always been a fantastic friend,” Melroy told collectSPACE. “And to carry on that relationship from flying together as crewmates to now being colleagues in a different place in our careers, as well as friends, is terrific.”

A retired U.S. Air Force pilot with over 5,000 hours of flight time in over 50 different aircraft, Melroy was only the second U.S. woman to pilot and then command a space mission. (The first, Eileen Collins, was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2013.) Melroy was pilot on STS-92 and STS-112 in 2002, before she led the STS-120 crew in 2007. All three of her flights contributed to the assembly of the International Space Station.

“When I talk about my career as an astronaut, you have to talk about building the station. For my generation of astronauts, that was our contribution,” Melroy said.

After retiring from the astronaut office in 2009, Melroy became the acting deputy associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration and held positions with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. She is now CEO of Melroy & Hollett Technology Partners and the director of space technology and policy at Nova Systems in Australia, as well as serves on the User Advisory Group for the National Space Council and advisory group to the Australian Space Agency.

SCOTT KELLY
Scott Kelly holds the title for the longest single space mission by a U.S. astronaut, a record that was once held by Lopez-Alegria.

“The record represents a lot of hard work by a lot of people, not just me, but also my colleagues who have spent progressively, increasingly longer lengths of time in space,” said Kelly. “I look at it as a continuation of our spaceflight experience. I expect that within the next few years, an American will have stayed in space longer than I,” he said.

A retired U.S. Navy captain, test pilot and also a NEEMO aquanaut, Kelly shares the distinction with his brother, Mark, of being the first identical twins to both become astronauts. Kelly flew four times to space, including serving as pilot on the third mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, STS-103 in 1999. His next flights were to the International Space Station, including a 12-day shuttle mission, STS-118 in 2007, and five-month stay, Expedition 25/26, in 2011.

Kelly’s fourth flight marked the first “one-year” mission on board the International Space Station, 340 days long, bringing his total time in space to over 520 days.

“I got to do some incredible things and I feel like I’ve been very privileged with the opportunities I had at NASA,” he said.

Since leaving the U.S. space agency in 2016, Kelly was appointed United Nations Champion for Space and has become a best-selling author.

Following their induction ceremony, which will take place under the display of the retired space shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Lopez-Alegria, Melroy and Kelly will be celebrated at a black-tie gala hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.

Lopez-Alegria, Melroy and Kelly were selected for enshrinement by a panel of Astronaut Hall of Fame members, flight controllers, historians and journalists. To be eligible, astronauts need to be U.S. citizens trained by NASA who first orbited Earth at least 17 years prior to their induction.

Founded in 1990 on the suggestion of the then-surviving Mercury astronauts, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame is a featured part of Heroes & Legends, an attraction at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame

November 1st, 2018

A statue of Alan Shepard, the first American in space, at the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida. Photo: NASA

As its inaugural class in 1990, the Hall of Fame, located at Kennedy Space Center, inducted the United States’ original group of astronauts: the Mercury Seven. In addition to being the first American astronauts, they set several firsts in American spaceflight, both auspicious and tragic.

Alan Shepard was the first American in space and later became one of the 12 people to walk on the Moon. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, and after his induction went on, in 1998, to become the oldest man to fly in space, aged 77. Gus Grissom was the first American to fly in space twice and was the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 1, which resulted in the first astronaut deaths directly related to spaceflight preparation.

Thirteen astronauts from the Gemini and Apollo programs were inducted in 1993. This class included the first and last humans to walk on the Moon – Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan; Ed White, the first American to walk in space (also killed in the Apollo 1 accident); Jim Lovell, commander of the famously near-tragic Apollo 13; and John Young, whose six flights included a moon walk and command of the first Space Shuttle mission.

More were to take their place in the Hall of Fame through the years with recently retired astronaut and former Johnson Space Center Director Dr. Ellen Ochoa joining Michael Foale in the Class of 2017.

May 11, 1990
Malcom Scott Carpenter
Leroy Gordon “Gordo” Cooper Jr.
John Herschel Glenn Jr.
Virgil Ivan “Gus” Grissom
Walter Marty “Wally” Schirra Jr.
Alan Bartlett “Al” Shepard Jr.
Donald Keat “Deke” Slayton

March 19, 1993
Edwin Eugene “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.
Neil Alden “Buzz” Armstrong
Frank Frederick Borman II
Eugene Andrew “Gene” Cernan
Michael “Mike” Collins
Charles Peter “Pete” Conrad Jr.
Henry Charles Gordon
James Arthur “Jim “ Lovell Jr.
James Alton “Jim” McDivitt
David Randolph “Dave” Scott
Thomas Patten “Tom” Stafford
Edward Higgins “Ed” White II
John Watts Young

October 4, 1997
William Alison “ Bill” Anders
Alan LaVerne “Al” Bean
Vance DeVoe Brand
Gerald Paul “Gerry” Carr
Roger Bruce Chaffee
Ronnie Walter “Walt” Cunningham
Charles Moss “Charlie” Duke Jr.
Donn Fulton Eisele
Ronald Ellwin “Ron” Evans
Owen Kay Garriott
Edward George Gibson
Fred Wallace Haise Jr.
James Benson Irwin
Joseph Peter Kerwin
Jack Robert Lousma
Thomas Kenneth “Ken” Mattingly II
Edgar Dean Mitchell
William Reid “Bill” Pogue
Stuart Allen “Stu” Roosa
Harrison Hagan “Jack” Schmitt
Russell Luis “Rusty” Schweickart
John Leonard “Jack” Swigert Jr.
Paul Joseph Weitz
Alfred Merrill Worden

November 10, 2001
Robert Laurel “Bob” Crippen
Joseph Henry “Joe” Engle
Frederick Hamilton “Rich” Hauck
Richard Harrison “Dick” Truly

June 21, 2003
Daniel Charles “Dan” Brandenstein
Robert Lee “Hoot” Gibson
Franklin Story Musgrave
Sally Kristen Ride

April 30, 2004
Richard Oswalt “Dick” Covey
Frederick Drew “Fred” Gregory
Francis Richard Scobee
Kathryn Dwyer “Kathy” Sullivan
Norman Earl “Norm” Thagard

April 26, 2005
Joseph Percival Allen
Charles Gordon Fullerton
Bruce McCandless II

May 6, 2006
Charles Frank “Charlie” Bolden Jr.
Henry Warren “Hank” Hartsfield Jr.
Brewster Hopkinson Shaw Jr.

May 5, 2007
Michael Lloyd “Mike” Coats
Steven Alan Hawley
Jeffrey Alan “Jeff” Hoffman

May 2-3, 2008
John Elmer Blaha
Robert Donald “Bob” Cabana
Bryan Daniel O’Connor
Loren James Shriver

May 1, 2009
George Driver “Pinky” Nelson
William McMichael “Bill” Shepherd
James Donald “Jim” Wetherbee

June 4-5, 2010
Guion Steward “Guy” Bluford Jr.
Kenneth Duane “Ken” Bowersox
Frank Lee Culbertson Jr.
Kathryn Ryan “Kathy” Thornton

May 7, 2011
Karol Joseph “Bo” Bobko
Susan Jane Helms

May 5, 2012
Franklin Ramon Chang-Diaz
Kevin Patrick “Chili” Chilton
Charles Joseph Precourt

April 20, 2013
Curtis Lee “Curt” Brown Jr.
Eileen Marie Collins
Bonnie Jeanne Dunbar

May 3, 2014
Shannon Matilda Lucid
Jerry Lynn Ross

May 30, 2015
John Mace Grunsfeld
Steven Wayne Lindsey
Kent Vernon Rominger
Margaret Rhea Seddon

May 13-14, 2016
Brian J. Duffy
Scott Edward Parazynski

May 19-20, 2017
Colin Michael “Mike” Foale
Ellen Lauri Ochoa

APRIL 21, 2018
Scott D. Altman
Thomas D. Jones