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Four Space Shuttle Fliers Inducted into U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame

The co-star of CBS's sitcom "Two and a Half Men"hosted the induction of three men and a woman into the U.S. Astronaut Hall ofFame Saturday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

Emmy award-winning actor Jon Cryer served as emcee for the induction ceremonythat reunited more than 20 Hall of Fame astronauts to honor 2010 inductees GuyBluford, Ken Bowersox, Frank Culbertson and Kathy Thornton.

"So why is TV's Jon Cryer here?" the acclaimedactor and director posed to the audience. "I'm actually here because I ama 'space geek' and I think I represent space geeks everywhere. I have been oneall my life and to be standing here at the Kennedy Space Center is just afanboy dream come true."

By comparison, there was no question as to why Bluford,Bowersox, Culbertson and Thornton were selected to be the ninth class of space shuttleastronauts to be inducted into the Hall. The first African-American in space,the two space station commanders-turned-commercial spaceflight leaders and therecord-setting spacewalker were a natural fit among the Hall of Fame's73 other astronauts, 22 of whom attended the ceremony.

"One of the things that is striking to me is that inaddition to the professional prowess, they are probably four of the mostspectacular, just down-right good human beings that I had the opportunity toget to know during my time in the astronaut office," said 1996 enshrineeand current NASAAdministrator Charlie Bolden about the 2010 class.

Dreams and plans

"I decided to chase the dream," said Bluford ofhis path to becoming an aerospace engineer and then an astronaut in his remarksfollowing his induction by fellow STS-39 crew member and Johnson Space Centerdirector Mike Coats.

"When I go out and talk to kids all the time, I tellthem to work hard, aim high and chase their dreams. That's what I did,"said Bluford, who flew on the first shuttle mission to launch and land at nightas well as the first Spacelab flight directed by the German space agency and a Departmentof Defense classified mission.

"Unlike Guy I really haven't had a life plan,"said Thornton, who was inducted by Dan Brandenstein, the commander of hersecond flight, the maiden mission of space shuttle Endeavour. "My careerhas been somewhat of a random walk and I owe a lot of what I have done to opportunitiesthat came along and people who made those opportunities possible."

Thornton's "walks" included three excursionsoutside the shuttle, including two spent repairing the Hubble Space Telescope.Until 2007, she held the world record for the longest spacewalk performed by a femaleastronaut.

Thornton thanked Brandenstein for giving her the chance todo to her first spacewalk on STS-49.

"That would have been an easier decision to give tosomeone who was less vertically-challenged than I, but he took a chance on me andI'll forever be grateful for that."

Though Culbertson joked that he was still surprised abouthaving been selected an astronaut, let alone being a Hall of Fameastronaut, he said flying was always the plan.

"Unlike Kathy, I did have a plan. I had planned since Iwas 11 to be a Navy pilot, and since I was 12 to be a test pilot and since Iwas 13 to be an astronaut. That was a long wait between the time I actually gotselected and a lot of potential side tracks and side trips, but I always wantedto do that," Culbertson said following his induction by Bolden.

"This is a tremendous honor for me. It is a realprivilege to be a member of this club. I always felt privileged to serve thecountry and to be a member of both the military and the astronaut corps, butmost of all to be a member of the NASA team," said Culbertson, a veteranof three space missions including the third expedition to the InternationalSpace Station, when he served as commander.

"There is nothing more important than moving thefrontiers further and further out and this is the community that does it. Thisis the one that takes the risks, whether you fly in space, you make thedecisions to fly in space or you put the wrench to the bolt and tighten it tothe right amount," he said.

"It takes a lot of courage to do that and allowsomebody, or help somebody, get into that seat and ride that rocket," saidCulbertson.

Culbertson today manages human spaceflight projects for OrbitalSciences, one of two companies with contracts to build commercial cargo spacecraftfor NASA. Culbertson's counterpart at the other company, Bowersox, saw thefirst test flightof SpaceX's rocket successfully reach orbit just the day before his induction.

"This is a great day for me," remarked Bowersoxfollowing his enshrinement by Dick Covey, the commander of his second shuttleflight. "Yesterday was a great day because we got to launch a new rocketfor the first time."

"And today I get this really neat medal and I get tosit up here with folks who taught me everything I know about space explorationand folks who I didn't get to work with when I was in the astronaut office butwho inspired me when I was a kid. Even if I never became an astronaut, whichwas something I always wanted to do, they helped me get to study science andtechnology in school and learn things that were very important to accomplishingmy dreams," said Bowersox.

Continuereading at collectSPACE.com to learn actor Jon Cryer's impressionsof the inductees and the space shuttle program.

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