KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLA. - Sunnyside/Outlook native and shuttle astronaut Bonnie Dunbar, Ph.D., along with Curt Brown and Eileen Collins, join an elite group of American space heroes as they will be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 20, during a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
They are being welcomed to the ranks of legendary space pioneers like Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, Sally Ride and John Young - distinguished members of the Hall of Fame.
This induction is the 12th group of space shuttle astronauts named to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame and the first time two women will be inducted at the same time. These retired space shuttle astronauts also share a commonality in their spaceflight history, as they each flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis during their careers.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex welcomes these former Atlantis astronauts to the Hall of Fame in the same year as the opening of space shuttle Atlantis' new home. The 90,000 square-foot interactive experience, scheduled to open in July 2013, tells the story of the 30-year Space Shuttle Program and highlights the future of space exploration.
Earlier inductees represent the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs. The addition of Brown, a veteran of six space shuttle flights; Collins, the first woman to pilot and command a space shuttle; and Dunbar, who served as a shuttle mission specialist and payload commander, brings the number of space explorers enshrined in the Hall of Fame to 85.
Dunbar, a celebrated astronaut and five-time spaceflight veteran, has received numerous honors, including NASA's Outstanding Leadership Award in 1993 and NASA's Exceptional Service Medal in 1998 and 1991. During her career with NASA she served as a mission specialist and a payload commander. Dunbar logged 1,208 hours in space and her spaceflights included STS 61-A, STS-32, STS-50, STS-71 and STS-89.
Dunbar's first spaceflight, STS-61A, was on space shuttle Challenger in 1985. The payload activities of this mission were controlled from the German Space Operations Center near Munich, Germany. As a mission specialist, Dunbar was responsible for operating the German Spacelab and performing more than 75 scientific experiments. As a mission specialist on Columbia STS-32, Dunbar helped successfully deploy the Syncom IV-F5 satellite and retrieved the 21,400-lb. Long Duration Exposure Facility using the remote manipulator system.
Dunbar's achievements in space contributed to setting various benchmarks for NASA. As the payload commander on STS-50 in 1992, Dunbar helped complete the first dedicated United States Micro-gravity Laboratory flight, which laid the groundwork for Space Station Freedom science operations. The Space Station Freedom project was originally planned to be a permanently manned Earth-orbiting space station in the 1980s, but it was never constructed or completed as designed. The Freedom project evolved into the International Space Station program.
In 1995 Dunbar flew aboard Atlantis on STS-71, the first space shuttle to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. As a mission specialist, Dunbar assisted with the transportation of a Spacelab module in the payload bay. This mission also involved an exchange of Mir crews. The STS-71 crew performed medical evaluations on the returning Mir crew. These evaluations included ascertaining the effects of weightlessness on the cardio/vascular system, the bone/muscle system, the immune system and the cardio/pulmonary system.
On her final mission in January 1998, Dunbar served as payload commander on STS-89, the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission. The crew transferred more than 9,000 pounds of scientific equipment, logistical hardware and water from space shuttle Endeavour to Mir. Dunbar was responsible for all payload activities and conducted 23 technology and science experiments.
During her time with NASA, Dunbar served as assistant director to Johnson Space Center and deputy associate director for Biological Sciences and Applications. Dunbar retired from NASA in September 2005 to serve as president and chief executive officer of the Seattle Museum of Flight in Seattle.
Brown is a retired NASA astronaut and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. Brown, a veteran of six spaceflights, began his career with NASA in 1987 as a pilot and has logged more than 1,383 hours in space.
Brown served as pilot on his first spaceflight in 1992 aboard space shuttle Endeavour. Serving as pilot again aboard space shuttle Atlantis on STS-66 in November 1994, Brown assisted the crew as it performed an Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science-3 (ATLAS-3) mission to determine the Earth's energy balance and atmospheric change over an 11-year solar cycle.
Brown's missions into space include numerous scientific achievements. On STS-77, his third time as pilot, Brown assisted the crew aboard space shuttle Endeavour as it performed a record number of rendezvous sequences, including the deployment and retrieval of a Spartan satellite, which carried the Inflatable Antenna Experiment designed to test the concept of large inflatable space structures.
Brown commanded a 12-day mission aboard space shuttle Discovery on his fourth spaceflight in August 1997.
In the fall of 1998, Brown was commander of Discovery when Sen. John Glenn returned to space on STS-95. The crew supported a variety of research payloads including deployment of the Hubble Space Telescope Orbital Systems Test Platform. A year later, Brown commanded Discovery on STS-103. The focus of this mission was to install new instruments and upgraded systems on the Hubble Space Telescope.
Collins is a retired NASA astronaut and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. Revered for commanding STS-114 on the Return to Flight mission following the space shuttle Columbia disaster, Collins' career with NASA is full of accomplishments, including becoming the first woman space shuttle pilot and the first woman commander. As a four-time spaceflight veteran, Collins logged more than 872 hours in space.
On her first spaceflight in 1995, Collins made history as she took the controls of Discovery on STS-63 and became the first female space shuttle pilot. STS-63 mission highlights in space include a rendezvous between Discovery and the Russian Space Station Mir. The crew also performed the deployment and retrieval of an astronomy satellite and completed a spacewalk.
Collins' second spaceflight was aboard space shuttle Atlantis on STS-84.
In July 1999, Collins became the first woman to command a space shuttle on STS-93. The crew aboard space shuttle Columbia deployed the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, a telescope designed to conduct comprehensive studies of the universe.
Collins commanded a shuttle for the second time in 2005 on the Return to Flight mission following the Columbia incident.
Collins retired from NASA in 2006 to spend more time with her family and pursue other interests. Since her retirement from NASA, Collins has worked with CNN as a space shuttle analyst, covering shuttle launches and landings. Currently, Collins serves as an advisor to the National Space Biomedical Research Institute and as a consultant in the aerospace industry.
The 2013 inductees were selected by a committee of current Hall of Fame astronauts, former NASA officials, flight directors, historians and journalists.
The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex opens daily at 9 a.m. Closing times vary by season. Admission includes the Kennedy Space Center Tour, featuring an actual Saturn V moon rocket, Shuttle Launch Experience, 3D IMAX space films and numerous exhibits. Admission also includes entry into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.