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Today, in a ceremony set beneath space shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, two veteran astronauts were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. Thomas D. Jones, PhD and Captain Scott D. Altman, who have each demonstrated outstanding accomplishments in furthering NASA’s mission of exploration and discovery, brought the total number of astronauts in this prestigious society to 97.
On-hand to welcome Dr. Jones and Captain Altman to the hall of fame were Curt Brown, board chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, Therrin Protze, Chief Operating Officer of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, Associate Director of NASA Kennedy Space Center, Kelvin Manning, and more than 15 previous astronaut inductees including Walt Cunningham, Robert Crippen, Karol Bobko, Story Musgrave, Daniel Brandenstein, Brewster Shaw, Robert Gibson, Loren Shriver, Jeffrey Hoffman, Rhea Seddon, Jerry Ross, Charlie Bolden, Ellen Ochoa, Charlie Precourt, John Grunsfeld and Kent Rominger.
Both Dr. Jones and Captain Altman have had illustrious careers centered around their love of space and science:
- Dr. Jones’ contributions to the U.S. space program have gone well beyond his 11 years with NASA, during which he flew on four space shuttle missions to Earth orbit. A graduate of the Air Force Academy and former B-52 bomber pilot, Jones joined NASA in 1990. He helped run science operations during STS-59, the first flight of the Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-1) and was the payload commander on the SRL-2 mission aboard STS-68 in the same year. The author of four space and aviation books, he has engineered intelligence-gathering systems for the CIA as well as helped NASA develop advanced mission concepts to explore the solar system. The recipient of multiple awards, including NASA’s Exceptional Service Award, Outstanding Leadership Medal, Exceptional Public Service Medal and Distinguished Service Medal, Dr. Jones also had the Main Belt asteroid 1082, named in his honor. He is currently a senior research scientist at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, focusing on the future direction of human space exploration, uses of asteroid and space resources and planetary defense.
- Captain Altman is an accomplished fighter pilot known for his aerial acrobatic flights in the movie “Top Gun.” He was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1995. His years as a Naval Captain led him to pilot his first two shuttle missions and then serve as a commander on his final two missions. In 1998, he served as a pilot on Columbia during the STS-90 Neurolab mission, which studied the effects of microgravity on the brain and human nervous system. Two years later in 2000, he piloted Atlantis on STS-106 during a 12-day mission to prepare the International Space Station for the arrival of the first permanent crew. He also commanded Columbia on STS-109 and STS-125, both missions to service the Hubble Space Telescope. In total, Altman spent more than 51 days in space during his four missions. He is a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Navy Commendation Medal, and was the 1987 award winner for outstanding achievement in Tactical Aviation as selected by the Association of Naval Aviation. He retired from NASA in 2010 to join the ASRC Federal family of companies.
The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame was spearheaded more than 30 years ago by the six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts. In November 2016, a new U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame opened at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, as part of the Heroes & Legends attraction.
U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Induction Process and Eligibility
Each year, inductees are selected by a committee of 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. Candidates must be a U.S. citizen and a NASA-trained commander, pilot or mission specialist who has orbited the earth at least once.