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NASA, astronauts and more mourn death of Chuck Yeager, the world's first supersonic pilot

 Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager standing in front of his F-15 Eagle on the 50th Anniversary of his becoming the first man to break the speed of sound in October 1997.
Brigadier General Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager standing in front of his F-15 Eagle on the 50th Anniversary of his becoming the first man to break the speed of sound in October 1997. (Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

The space and aviation community worldwide mourned the death of Chuck Yeager at the age of 97 on Monday (Dec. 7). He is best remembered for being the U.S. Air Force pilot who first broke the sound barrier on Oct. 14, 1947.

Yeager's adventures were chronicled in numerous formats, including Tom Wolfe's 1979 book "The Right Stuff," which inspired a 1983 Hollywood film and a new Disney Plus series that both share the same name. 

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine released a statement concerning Yeager's passing on the agency's website, and also posted on Twitter. 

Related: Breaking the sound barrier: The greatest moments in flight

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"Yeager's pioneering and innovative spirit advanced America's abilities in the sky and set our nation's dreams soaring into the jet age and the space age," Bridenstine's statement said in part. "He said, 'You don't concentrate on risks. You concentrate on results. No risk is too great to prevent the necessary job from getting done.' "

Yeager's death also caught the attention of senior space people around the world, including the Canadian Space Agency's Gilles Leclerc, the agency's director-general of space exploration.

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Within the United States, Yeager's life caused reflections among numerous space and aviation agencies and institutions. Gen. John "Jay" Raymond, the chief of space operations of the newly created Space Force, paid tribute to Yeager, along with the U.S. Air Force, Edwards Air Force Base (where Yeager performed his famous flight), the National Air and Space Museum and the Federal Aviation Administration.

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Astronauts around the world talked about the influence that Yeager's life had on their careers. Among the spaceflyers speaking about Yeager were retired NASA astronaut Scott Kelly (who spent nearly a year in space), Anousheh Ansari (the first female space tourist) and Chris Hadfield (the famous Canadian astronaut who charmed social media channels during his last flight in 2012-2013).

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NASA flight directors Zebulon Scoville and Ed Van Cise also talked about the importance of Yeager's legacy. In his tweet, Scoville quoted the poem "High Flight" by John McGee, a Second World War-era tribute to aviation's wonder that was well-known among pilots of Yeager's generation.

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Aerospace companies across the United States also thanked Yeager for his contributions to aviation. These included Boeing, a long-time contractor for NASA that is now providing one of the two spacecraft that will be used for commercial crew missions, and Lockheed Martin, another decades-long NASA partner which is building the Orion spacecraft for crewed, deep-space exploration.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.