Veterans Day Salute to NASA’s Military Astronauts

By  //  November 9, 2017

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(NASA) – Each year, Americans pause on Nov. 11 to celebrate Veterans Day. While the date marks the anniversary of the end of World War I, the annual holiday is designed to honor everyone who served and is serving in the armed forces of the United States. Many of those include NASA astronauts.

When the agency selected the first groups of U.S. astronauts, all were military pilots. That held true until selection of the fourth group, selected in 1965. They were scientists, three of whom served in the military.

As NASA approached the space shuttle era, scientists, doctors and engineers were needed along with pilots. The 35 selected in 1978 included the most diverse group to date including the first women and ethnic minorities. The selections included 13 pilot astronauts along with 22 mission specialists. All of the pilots served in the military, as well as 13 of the mission specialists.

With the 12 NASA astronauts selected in the group announced in June this year, the total number of individuals selected by the agency totals 375 — 216 served in one of the branches of the U.S. armed services.

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During the April 9, 1959, news conference in which NASA’s “Original Seven” astronauts were announced, John Glenn commented on the sense of duty he felt serving in the Marines and as an astronaut.

“I think we would be almost remiss in our duty if we didn’t make full use of our talents,” he said.

“Every one of us would feel guilty, I think, if we didn’t make the fullest use of our talents in volunteering for something that is as important as this is to our country and the world.”

Selected in 1959, the Mercury astronauts, all military pilots, stand beside a Convair 106-B jet. From the left are: Lt. Scott Carpenter, U.S. Navy.; Capt. Gordon Cooper Jr., U.S. Air Force; Lt. Col. John Glenn Jr., U. S. Marine Corps; Capt. Virgil “Gus” Grissom, U.S. Air Force; Lt. Cdr. Walter Schirra Jr., U.S. Navy; Lt. Cdr. Alan Shepard, U.S. Navy; and Capt. Donald K. Slayton, U.S. Air Force. (NASA Image)
The 2017 NASA Astronaut Class, including both military and civilians, stands beside a T-38 aircraft. From the left are: Zena Cardman, graduate research fellow Pennsylvania State University; U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Jasmin Moghbeli; Jonny Kim, resident physician at Massachusetts General Hospital; U.S. Army Maj. Frank Rubio; U.S. Navy Lt. Cdr. Matthew Dominick; Warren Hoburg, assistant professor Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Robb Kulin, launch chief engineer at SpaceX; U.S. Navy Lt. Kayla Barron; Bob Hines, NASA research pilot at Johnson Space Center; U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Raja Chari; Loral O’ Hara, research engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; and Jessica Watkins, postdoctoral fellow California Institute of Technology. (NASA Image)