When NASA's 30-year-old space shuttle program is shuttered following the Atlantis mission in July, the University of Colorado Boulder will look back at a rich relationship filled with triumph and tragedy and look ahead to an evolving international program of government and private efforts that will send humans and cargo into orbit.
Of the 19 astronaut-affiliates from CU -- 18 from CU-Boulder and one from University of Colorado Colorado Springs -- 16 flew on a total of 40 NASA space shuttle missions. The two who flew the most shuttle missions were Jim Voss, (M.S. aerospace engineering, 1974) a current scholar in residence at CU-Boulder who flew five missions, as did CU alumna Marsha Ivins (B.S. aerospace engineering, 1973).
Vance Brand, a Longmont native with two CU-Boulder degrees (B.A. business 1953, B.S. aerospace, 1960), began his astronaut career with the Apollo program -- he flew on the historic Apollo-Soyuz mission that brought together astronauts and cosmonauts in space in 1981 -- and went on to command three space shuttle flights.
Two CU-Boulder astronaut-alumni died aboard space shuttles. In 1986, Ellison Onizuka (B.S., M.S. aerospace engineering, 1969), was killed when Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, an event witnessed by millions around the world. In 2003, Kalpana Chawla (Ph.D. aerospace engineering, 1988) perished when Columbia disintegrated over Texas during Earth re-entry.
CU-Boulder's Air Force ROTC honors the two fallen astronauts annually on campus with a color guard and wreath-laying ceremony.
A celebrated university reunion in space occurred on Dec. 2, 1990, when Columbia blasted off with three CU astronaut-alums. Brand, the Columbia space shuttle commander, was joined by mission specialist John "Mike" Lounge (M.S. astrogeophysics, 1970) and payload specialist Sam Durrance (Ph.D., astrogeophysics 1980) as part of the seven-man crew on the ASTRO-1 mission. Toting four telescopes
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University of Colorado at Boulder