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NASA's Shuttle AstronautsThe space shuttle has launched 134 times during its 30 years of service, and in that time it has ferried more than 540 astronauts into space. After one more launch, the July 8 liftoff of the shuttle Atlantis, NASA plans to retire its reusable space planes for good.
While each shuttle astronaut has made unique contributions to America's space program, a few space travelers especially stand out. Here's a look at seven of the brave men and women who've ridden to space on the shuttles:
John YoungSlide 2 of 15
John YoungJohn Young had already been in space four times by the time he was chosen to become the commander of the first space shuttle mission. Young was the ninth person to walk on the moon (as commander of the Apollo 16 mission in 1972), and he is one of only three people who has been to the moon twice.
After flying on the inaugural shuttle flight, the STS-1 mission of Columbia in 1981, Young went on to command another space shuttle mission, the STS-9 flight in 1983, which carried the first Spacelab research module.
When he retired in 2004, he had spent a total of 34 days in space.Slide 3 of 15
Robert CrippenSlide 4 of 15
Robert CrippenEven before Robert Crippen piloted the first flight of the space shuttle program, he had put together an impressive resume at NASA. He was a member of the astronaut support crew on the ground for missions on the Skylab space station and for the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, which was the last Apollo mission, and the first joint United States/Soviet Union space flight.
After the first shuttle flight, Crippen commanded the shuttle on three subsequent missions in the 1980s. He presided over the first five-person crew, STS-7, flew with the first female American astronaut in space, Sally Ride, on STS-41-C, and commanded the first seven-person crew on STS-41-G.
Overall, Crippen spent 23 days in space over the course of his four shuttle missions.Slide 5 of 15
Sally RideSlide 6 of 15
Sally RideSally Ride was already a notable American physicist before she began her rather unorthodox path to becoming a space shuttle astronaut.
Ride found her way to the shuttle by being one of 8,000 people to answer a NASA application advertisement in a newspaper. In August 1979, she completed one year of training, and then performed as an on-orbit capsule communicator (CAPCOM), talking to the astronauts from the ground during the STS-2 and STS-3 shuttle missions.
On June 18, 1983, Ride became the first American woman in space as a crewmember on Challenger for the STS-7 mission.Slide 7 of 15
Guy BlufordSlide 8 of 15