Friday's scheduled liftoff of Space Shuttle Atlantis marks the beginning of the end of nearly four decades of collaboration between MIT and NASA on the nation's space shuttle program—a partnership that has shaped spacecraft design, operations and scientific payloads since Space Shuttle Columbia first blasted off in 1981.
Two NSE alums are amongst the total of 27 MIT graduates who have flown on a total of 59 space shuttle missions since the beginning of the program—nearly half of all the missions flown. Indeed, the Institute has produced more NASA astronauts than any other private university.
Franklin Chang-Diaz ScD '77 flew on a record seven shuttle flights, spanning from STS-61C aboard Columbia in 1986 to STS-111 aboard Endeavour in 2002. In the process Chang-Diaz accrued some 1,601 hours in space, including 19 hours and 31 minutes in three spacewalks.
Frederick ('Rick') Hauck SM '66 led the return of the space shuttle program to flight following the Challenger disaster, commanding Discovery on the STS-26 mission in 1988.
Based on the feature written by John Tylko for MIT News Office. Photo: The Return to Flight launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery and its five man crew from Pad 39-B at 11:37 a.m. on September 29, 1988. Courtesy of NASA.