CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida -- Three Space Shuttle astronauts, Curt Brown, Eileen Collins and Bonnie Dunbar, were inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® during a ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Saturday, April 20, 2013.
Their induction as the 12th group of space shuttle astronauts to be enshrined brings the number of space explorers in the Hall of Fame to 85. Earlier inductees represent the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs.
Brown is a veteran of six space shuttle flights from 1992 to 1999, serving as a pilot three times and commander three times. He was the commander for the 1998 Discovery mission for the return to space of then-Sen. John Glenn, who in 1962 was the first American to orbit the Earth.
Eileen Collins was the first woman to pilot and also first to command a space shuttle, including serving as commander for the first mission after the Columbia disaster. Collins served on four shuttle mission crews from 1995 to 2005.
Bonnie Dunbar served as a shuttle mission specialist and payload commander on five shuttle missions from 1985 to 1998. She has received many awards, including NASA's Outstanding Leadership Award in 1993.
The induction of Collins and Dunbar marks the first time two women have entered the Hall of Fame at the same time. Fittingly, June 18, 2013, will mark the 30th anniversary of Sally Ride becoming the first American women in space when she was a member of the seventh space shuttle mission, on Challenger.
The three retired space shuttle astronauts also share a commonality in their spaceflight history in that each flew aboard space shuttle Atlantis at least once. Atlantis is the centerpiece of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's new Space Shuttle Atlantis attraction, opening June 29, which will tell the incredible story of NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle Program.
The 2013 inductees were selected by a committee of current Hall of Fame astronauts, former NASA officials, flight directors, historians and journalists. The process is administered by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. To be eligible, an astronaut must have made his or her first flight at least 17 years before the induction year and must be retired at least five years from the NASA astronaut corps. Candidates must be a U.S. citizen and a NASA-trained commander, pilot or mission specialist who has orbited the earth at least once.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Center