KENNEDY SPACE CENTER - Space Shuttle astronauts Curt Brown, Eileen Collins and Bonnie Dunbar, Ph.D., joined an elite group of American space heroes with their induction into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Saturday.
During a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex Saturday the three astronauts joined the ranks of legendary space pioneers such as Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, Sally Ride and John Young in the Hall of Fame.
They were inducted as the 12th group of space shuttle astronauts. That brought the total of space explorers inducted to 85. Earlier inductees represent the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs.
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 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.
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.
Collins also served as commander for the first mission after the Columbia disaster. Collins served on four shuttle mission crews from 1995 to 2005.
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 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. The three retired space shuttle astronauts also share a commonality in their space flight history in that each flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis at least once.
In case4 you forgot, once the shuttle program ended and they retired the shuttles, Atlantis became the centerpiece of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. They even created a new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction around it. It's set to open on June 29.
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.