Shuttle Commander, Astronomers Join Astronaut Hall of Fame
The 2007 class of U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Inductees: Michael Coats, Steven Hawley and Jeffrey Hoffman.
Credit: NASA.

Two astronomers-turned-astronauts and a space shuttle commander will be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame this May, joining 63 of their Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle peers.

Michael Coats, Steven Hawley and Jeffrey Hoffman were chosen by a committee of past enshrinees, former NASA leaders, historians and journalists to be the 2007 class of Hall of Fame inductees. The three will be honored with an evening gala and public ceremony to be hosted on May 4 and 5 at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida [image].

Coats, Hawley and Hoffman became astronauts in 1978 among the first recruited class of shuttle crew members, unofficially called the Thirty-Five New Guys. Coats and Hawley flew in space together and Hawley and Hoffman serviced the Hubble Space Telescope, though on different missions. While all three are retired from the NASA astronaut corps, they continue to serve the United States' space program today.

Commander and Director

Almost 30 years before he took the helm of Johnson Space Center as its director, Coats came to the Houston facility to train for an eventual three shuttle missions. A Naval Aviator and test pilot, he flew his first space flight as pilot of the maiden launch of orbiter Discovery. After overcoming the first pad abort of the program, Coats and his STS-41D crewmates deployed a prototype solar array and released three satellites in 1984.

Coats second flight was also his first command, again on Discovery for mission STS-29 [image]. Only the third launch after the loss of Challenger in 1986, Coats' crew deployed a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and performed a space station "heat pipe" radiator experiment. After five days in orbit and 3,000 photographs taken of Earth, Coats landed the orbiter in California on March 18, 1989.

Commander Coats flew his third and final Discovery flight on an unclassified 1991 Department of Defense mission. The STS-39 crew deployed, operated and retrieved the free-flyer SPAS-II spacecraft and conducted research of both natural and induced Earth atmospheric phenomena.

Coats left NASA soon after his last flight for the private aerospace sector, holding management positions at Loral Space Information Systems and with Lockheed Martin's Space Systems Company, where he was most recently vice president of advanced space transportation. In Nov. 2005, Coats returned to NASA as the 10th director of the Johnson Space Center (JSC).

Have telescopes, will space travel

Steven Hawley's first space flight was with fellow 2007 inductee Mike Coats aboard STS-41D. He, Coats and his four fellow crewmates were dubbed the "Icebusters" after they successfully knocked free ice from Discovery's side using its robotic arm.

Hawley next flew as a mission specialist on STS-61C, a six-day mission that returned to earth just 10 days before the Challenger accident in January 1986. His crew, which included Congressman (later to be Senator) Bill Nelson, deployed a communications satellite. During the mission, Hawley conducted the first quantitative observations of the shuttle "glow" phenomenon, wherein the orbiter's side facing the atmospheric wind would exhibit a bright orange glow. He also operated a small telescope to view galactic gas clouds in ultraviolet.

The Hubble Space Telescope took the center stage for Hawley's third and fourth space flights. In April 1990 on STS-31, Hawley and his crewmates deployed the orbiting observatory from Discovery's payload bay. Hawley and Discovery returned to the telescope seven years later to upgrade Hubble and install new equipment. Hawley used the shuttle's 50-foot (15-meter) robotic arm to retrieve and re-deploy the 44 foot (13 meter)-long scope during the STS-82 mission.

Hawley's final flight focused on a different telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was deployed in July 1999 during his STS-93 mission. He also led the use of a small payload bay-mounted telescope to observe solar system objects, many for the first time in the ultraviolet.

A former deputy chief of the astronaut office and director of flight crew operations, today Hawley is the director of astromaterials research and exploration science for JSC.

Tethered spacewalker, tethered satellite

Like Hawley, an astronomer, Jeff Hoffman is a veteran of five shuttle missions and was the first to log 1,000 hours aboard the space shuttle, recording a career total of over 1,200 hours in space.

Hoffman, with STS-51D crewmate David Griggs, made the shuttle's first unscheduled spacewalk in April 1985, attaching a makeshift "flyswatter" to Discovery's robotic arm. The unplanned EVA was performed as part of an effort by the crew to engage a malfunctioning satellite that they had deployed earlier in the mission. During the flight Hoffman and his crew also recorded how various popular children's toys operated in space, resulting in a very popular educational outreach program for students.

Hoffman's second mission was the first shuttle flight dedicated to astronomical research, flying the ASTRO-1 ultraviolet astronomy laboratory, a project on which he had been dedicated to since before his first launch. The mission featured round-the-clock observations of the celestial sphere in ultraviolet and X-ray spectrums using a payload of four telescopes.

Hoffman was next named STS-46 payload commander, launching on Atlantis in 1992. He and the crew released the EURECA free-flyer and conducted the first test flight of the Tethered Satellite System (TSS), a joint project between NASA and the Italian Space Agency (ASI) that strove to demonstrate that electricity could be generated by dragging a tether-attached probe through the Earth's magnetic field. Hoffman flew again with the TSS in 1996 aboard STS-75.

Hoffman was also a member of the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, STS-61, in 1993. During that flight, he performed three spacewalks to replace and install instruments inside the observatory, which in part corrected for an optical flaw that had limited the Hubble's on-orbit use since being deployed.

After leaving the astronaut corps, Hoffman represented NASA in Europe, where he worked as a liaison between the U.S. space agency and its European partners. In 2001, he was seconded by NASA to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Celebrating and selecting the 64th, 65th and 66th

To be eligible for induction, an astronaut must have made his or her first flight at least 20 years before the induction year and must have retired from NASA's astronaut corps for at least five years. A candidate must be a U.S. citizen, NASA-trained and must have orbited the Earth at least once.

In balloting, committee members evaluated not only an individual's flight accomplishments but also how he or she contributed to the success and future success of the United States' space program in post-flight assignments.

The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) will host a gala honoring the 2007 inductees at NASA's Kennedy Space Center's Apollo-Saturn V Center on May 4. The following day on May 5, a public induction ceremony will be held at the space center's visitor complex in Florida.

Copyright 2007 All rights reserved.