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Four Astronauts Honored for Contributions to Human Space Flight

U.S. astronauts, from Florida to Texas, are receiving honors this week for their contributions to human space exploration.

On Saturday (May 5), Franklin Chang Diaz, Kevin Chilton and Charles Precourt will be inducted into the U. S. Astronaut  Hall of Fame in Titusville, Fla.

They will bring to 82 the number of inductees from the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz and shuttle programs.

Mike Coats, NASA's Johnson Space Center director, former aerospace company executive and first generation shuttle astronaut, receives National Space Trophy Photo Credit/NASA


Last Friday, NASA Johnson Space Center director Mike Coats, a 2007  Hall of Fame inductee, became the 2012 recipient of the National Space Trophy, an award presented annually by the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement Foundation to a U. S. citizen for life time contributions to the exploration of space. 

Each of these men started their space careers as shuttle astronauts, three of them selected by NASA as test pilots from the U. S. Navy and U. S. Air Force. All four excelled at NASA before moving on to successful careers in the aerospace industry, or back into the military or into space agency management positions.

A large gathering of friends and families as well as the public is expected Saturday at the Hall of Fame, located at the Kennedy Space CenterVisitor Center, for the induction ceremonies.

Franklin Chang-Diaz Photo Credit/NASA

Chang Diaz, an MIT educated plasma physicist, joined NASA’s astronaut corps in 1980 and launched into orbit a world’s record tying seven times as a shuttle mission specialist over a 25 year career. Now in the private sector, he leads research at Ad Astra, a commercial company involved in the development of plasma rocket engines that could one day propel missions to Mars in as few as 39 days.

Kevin Chilton NASA Photo


Chilton, a career Air Force officer, joined the astronaut corps in 1987 as a pilot astronaut. He departed NASA after three missions in 1998. After returing to activity duty in the military  Chilton rose to the rank of general and commanding officer of the U. S. Strategic Command. Chilton is the 2011 recipient of the National Space Trophy.

Precourt, another Air Force officer, joined NASA in 1990 as a pilot astronaut. He flew four shuttle missions, including command of the final shuttle flight toRussia’s former Mir space station in 1998. Precourt also served as chief astronaut, director of NASA operations inRussiaand deputy space station program manager. Upon his departure from the space agency in 2005, Precort  joined the aerospace company ATK.

Charles Precourt NASA Photo

Coats came to NASA’s astornaut corps from the U. S. Navy  in 1978 as one of the NASA original shuttle astronaut candidates. He flew three missions, twice as commander before leaving the space agency for Loral Space Information Systems, then Lockheed Martin Space Systems.

Coats returned to NASA in 2005 as the director of the Johnson Space Center.


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