NASA astronaut Hank Hartsfield died on Thursdsay, July 17, at the age of 80 due to back surgery complications.
NASA astronaut Henry "Hank" Hartsfield died Thursday, July 17. The 80-year-old man commanded the maiden voyage of NASA's space shuttle Discovery after waiting 13 years to pilot a space mission.
Hartfield's death was a result back surgery complications according to Mike Mullane. Although the surgery was several months earlier, fellow STS-41D crewmember Mullane has nothing but positive memories of the two throughout the years.
CollectSpace.com reports that in response to the sad news, Mullane posted a message online. "He was a great commander and pilot and I'll always feel honored to have been a member of his crew."
According to “Astronaut Hank Hartsfield, led first flight of space shuttle Discovery, dies at 80”, Hartsfield earned the title astronaut just two months after the moon landing in September 1969. Waiting for his childhood dream to come true and officially pilot a space bounce craft, the Birmingham, Ala., native managed to became a USAF pilot. Commissioned through Auburn University's ROTC program, he entered the Air Force and graduated from USAF Test Pilot School in Edwards Air Force Base, located in California.
In fact the studious pilot earned his Bachelors of Science in Physics at Auburn and later studied graduate work at Physics at Duke and Astronautics at Wright-Patterson AFB's Air Force Institute of Technology. And University of Tennessee awarded him a Masters of Science in Engineering in 1971.
It's easy to see why he would be considered worthy to be in charge of piloting since he did a lot of background education just in case. Never a bad decision, really.
Not easy to call a mechanic from space in the 1980s. Remember the NORAD-sized computers in War Games?
The June 27, 1982 test run that ended on July 4 also had commander Thomas "Ken" Mattingly onboard as they performed experiments and helped to test "a pair of classified missile launch-detection systems." When they returned to Earth, then-President and First Lady Ronald and Nancy Reagan waited at Edwards. There aren’t a lot of people that can say they kept the President waiting, willingly.
But STS-4, the final test run before Discovery was considered operational, was an assignment hard to describe. In a 2006 interview with CollectSPACE.com, the astronaut admitted the differences between scientific and occupational experience. "'Operational,' to me, is a tough term to explain."
Thanks to previous encounters of being "a test pilot and looking at airplanes," word definition definitely took on a new meaning.
During the Aug. 30, 1984, mission into the space, Discovery took six days to "deploy communication satellites and conduct science." Same mission ended up earning more than a few accolades in technology department, too.
"Hartsfield and his crewmates gained a nickname, the 'Icebusters,' after using the shuttle robotic arm to successfully knock off a hazardous ice buildup on the outside of the orbiter."
Turns out that an icicle was located at the Orbital Maneuvering System, "what's where the propellant is for the OMS engines,” and be very dangerous for the crew onboard. He carefully used the robotic arm to break off the icicle.
"We were really relieved to see that go away."
Logging over 480 hours in space, the pilot first went into to space on the Columbia shuttle. Not to mention the over 7,300 hours in plane flying hours. And before doing the test runs for Discovery, he was a support crewmember for Apollo 16 and Skylabs 2, 3, and 4.
Needless to say, he had the knowledge to back up any claims of something being less than ideal during a mission.
By the end of his astronaut career, he'd circled the Earth 321 times. And that paid off. Before leaving NASA in 1998, the 2006 Astronaut Hall of Famer helped in designing the basis for the International Space Station as the deputy manager of space station projects-on top of working on the logistics of an orbiting laboratory.
Hartsfield’s survived by wife Judy Frances Massey, daughter Judy, and two grandchildren. Daughter Keely passed way March of this year after following her father footsteps by working as a contractor in the space shuttle program.
The world lost a pioneer on July 17.