Oklahoma has had more astronauts than any other state in the Union and they come from many different communities in Oklahoma.
Gordon Cooper was born on Mar. 6, 1927, in Shawnee, Okla. He was an American aerospace engineer, test pilot, United States Air Force pilot, and the youngest of the seven original astronauts in Project Mercury, the first human space program of the U.S. Cooper learned to fly as a child, and after service in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, he was commissioned into the United States Air Force in 1949. After service as a fighter pilot, he qualified as a test pilot in 1956, and was selected as an astronaut in 1959.
In 1963, Cooper piloted the longest and last Mercury spaceflight, Mercury-Atlas 9. During that 34 – hour mission he became the first American to spend an entire day in space, the first to sleep in space, and the last American launched on an entirely solo orbital mission.
Cooper became the first astronaut to make a second orbital flight when he flew as Command Pilot of Gemini 5 in 1965. Along with Pilot Pete Conrad, he set a new space endurance record by traveling 3,312,993 miles in 190 hours and 56 minutes (just short of eight days) showing that astronauts could survive in space for the length of time necessary to go from the Earth to the Moon and back
Cooper retired from NASA and the USAF on July 31, 1970, with the rank of colonel, having flown 222 hours in space.
Cooper developed Parkinson’s disease and died at age 77 on Oct. 4, 2004.
Owen Garriott was born Nov. 22, 1930, in Enid, Okla. He graduated from Enid High School in 1948, where he served as senior class president and was voted “Most Likely To Succeed. He received a BS degree in electrical engineering from the University of Oklahoma in 1953. He later earned Master of Science and Ph.D. degrees from Stanford University in electrical engineering in 1957 and 1960, respectively.
After serving in the United States Navy, Garriott was an engineering professor at Stanford University before attending the United States Air Force Pilot Training Program and later joining NASA. As an astronaut he spent 60 days aboard the Skylab space station in 1973 during the Skylab 3 mission, and 10 days aboard Spacelab-1 on a Space Shuttle mission in 1983.
Garriott died on Apr. 15, 2019, in Huntsville, Ala.
John Herrington was born in Wetumka, Okla., into the Chickasaw Nation. He grew up in Colorado, Wyoming, and Texas, graduating Plano Senior High School in Texas. He earned a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, before receiving his commission in the United States Navy in 1984.
In 2002, Herrington became the first enrolled member of a Native American tribe to fly in space. To honor his Chickasaw heritage, Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, carried its flag on his 13 – day trip to space. The flag had been presented to him by Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby.
This U.S. Naval Aviator and NASA astronaut retired in Sept. 2005.
Shannon Lucid was born Jan. 14, 1943, in in Shanghai, China, to Baptist missionary parents, and for the first year of her life she and her parents were imprisoned by the Japanese. The three of them were released during a prisoners swap, stayed in the U.S. until the end of the war, and then returned to China. When Lucid was six, her family decided to leave China due to the communists rising to power. They settled in Bethany, Okla., and Lucid graduated from Bethany High School in 1960. Shortly after graduating from high school, she received her pilot’s license and bought an old plane to fly her father to revival meetings.
Lucid’s experience includes a variety of academic assignments, such as teaching assistant at the University of Oklahoma‘s Department of Chemistry from 1963 to 1964; senior laboratory technician at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation from 1964 to 1966; chemist at Kerr-McGee, Oklahoma City, 1966 to 1968; graduate assistant at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from 1969 to 1973 and research associate with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City, from 1974 until her selection to the astronaut candidate training program.
In 1978, NASA advertised for female candidates. Lucid was selected for the NASA Astronaut Corps in 1978. Of the six women in this first class with female astronauts, Lucid was the only one who was a mother at the time of being selected.
At one time, she held the record for the longest duration stay in space by an American, as well as by a woman. She has flown in space five times including a prolonged mission aboard the Mir space station in 1996; she is the only American woman to have served aboard Mir. In 2002, Discover magazine recognized Lucid as one of the 50 most important women in science.
Lucid was awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor in December 1996 (for her mission to Mir), making her the tenth person and first woman to be given that honor.
William Pogue was born Jan. 23, 1930 in Okemah, Okla., of Choctaw ancestry. He attended school in Sand Springs, Okla., completing high school in 1947. Pogue received a Bachelors degree from Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee in 1951, and a Masters degree in mathematics from Oklahoma State University in 1960.
He served in the United States Air Force for 24 years, flying combat during the Korean War, and with the USAF Thunderbirds. He served as a flight instructor and mathematics professor, and was a versatile test pilot, including two years in an exchange with the Royal Air Force.
Pogue was an Air Force instructor when he was accepted as an trainee astronaut for NASA in 1966. His NASA career included one orbital mission as pilot of the Skylab 4. The crew set a duration record of 84 days that was unbroken in NASA for over 20 years, and in orbit they conducted dozens of research experiments. The mission was also noted for a dispute with ground control over schedule management that news media named “The Skylab Mutiny”. Pogue retired from both the USAF as a Colonel and NASA a few months after he returned from Skylab.
He died Mar. 3, 2014, at age 84.
Stuart Roosa was a smokejumper, American aeronautical engineer, United States Air Force pilot, test pilot, and NASA astronaut, who was the Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 14 mission. The mission lasted from Jan. 31 to Feb. 9, 1971 and was the third mission to land astronauts on the moon.
He was one of 24 men to travel to the Moon, which he orbited 34 times.
Roosa was born on Aug. 16, 1933, in Durango, Colo., and grew up in Claremore, Okla. He graduated from Claremore High School in 1951. He studied at Oklahoma State University and the University of Arizona, receiving a Bachelors in aeronautical engineering from the University of Colorado in Boulder in 1960.
Roosa began his career as a smokejumper with the U.S. Forest Service, dropping into at least four active fires in Oregon and California during the 1953 fire season. He was a graduate of the Aviation Cadet Program at Williams Air Force Base, Ariz., where he received his flight training commission in the U.S. Air Force. He also attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School and was an experimental test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California before being selected for the astronaut class of 1966.
On Dec. 12, 1994, retired Colonel Roosa died at age 61 in Washington, D.C. and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Thomas Stafford was born Sept. 17, 1930, in Weatherford, Okla. Stafford became interested in aviation following the start of World War II, as the nearby city El Reno has an Army Air Corps training base. He began making model airplanes, and made his first flight at the age of 14 in a Piper Cub. Prior to graduating from high school, Stafford served in the 45th Infantry Division in the Oklahoma National Guard. Soon after, he transferred to the 158th Field Artillery Regiment, where he plotted targets for artillery fires.
Stafford attended Weatherford High School and graduated in 1948. In his senior year of high school, Stafford was recruited to play football at the University of Oklahoma, where he had received a Navy ROTC scholarship. Stafford applied to the United States Naval Academy, and was accepted to the class of 1952. He intended to play football for the Navy Midshipman, but sustained a career – ending knee injury during a preseason practice session. After his freshman year, he sailed aboard the battleship USS Missouri, where his roommate was his future Apollo 10 Command Module Pilot, John Young. Following his second year, Stafford spent a summer at NAS Pensacola, where he was exposed to naval aviation and flew in the SNJ Trainer.
Stafford graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in 1952, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. He flew the F-86 Sabre prior becoming a test pilot. He was selected to become an astronaut in 1962, and flew aboard Gemini 6A and Gemini 9. In 1969, Stafford was the Commander of Apollo 10, the second crewed mission to orbit the Moon and the first to fly a Lunar Module in lunar orbit, descending to an altitude of nine miles.
In 1975, Stafford was the commander of the Apollo – Soyuz Test Project flight, the first joint U.S.-Soviet space mission. Stafford was a brigadier general at the time of the mission, becoming the first general officer to fly in space, as well as the first member of his Naval Academy class to pin on the first, second, and third stars of a general officer. He made six rendezvous in space and logged 507 hours of space flight. He flew over 120 different types of fixed wing and rotary aircraft and three different types of spacecraft, and was one of 24 people who flew to the Moon.
Neil Woodward III was born July 26, 1962, in Chicago, Ill, and attended Putnam City High School in Oklahoma City, graduating in 1980. He then attended MIT, earning a degree in physics in 1984. He attended graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, working in the Center for Relativity and then the Fusion Research Center. He received his master’s degree in physics in 1988. Later, in 2000, he earned his master’s degree in Engineering Management from the George Washington University.
Woodward joined the US Navy and was commissioned in January 1989, earning his wings as a Naval Flight Officer in March 1990. He completed Bombardier / Navigator training in the A-6E Intruder and was assigned to the Green Lizards of Attack Squadron 95. Woodward made two deployments with VA-95 aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in support of Operation Desert Storm, Southern Watch, and Somalia.
In 1995, he was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and graduated with distinction in July 1996. Upon graduation, he was assigned to the Air Vehicle/Stores Compatibility Department at the Naval Strike Aircraft Test Squadron (NSATS) in Patuxent River. Woodward was assigned to the Strike Aircraft Test Squadron when he was selected for the astronaut program. Woodward logged over 1,700 flight hours in more than 25 different aircraft and has 265 arrested landings.
Selected by NASA in June 1998, Woodward was on detached duty to Exploration Systems Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters in various roles, including Director of the ESMD Integration Office and Director, Commercial Orbital Transportation Services.
Woodward retired from the Navy and NASA in October 2008, and currently works in the field of information technology.
Oklahoma is well represented in the American’s space industry.
Astronaut trivia: Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the mon, has a second connection to the giant circle in the sky: His mother’s maiden name was Moon.
See you on the bricks!