Auburn commemorates National Space Day with tribute to university astronauts


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Humanity has searched the skies in the spirit of exploration for decades, and Auburn University has helped advance that mission over the years.

In honor of designating May 6 as National Space Day, Auburn has created a special webpage to commemorate the contributions of its six astronauts and other alumni who helped further space exploration. Jan Davis ’77, late Hank Hartsfield ’54, TK “Ken” Mattingly ’58, Kathryn Thornton ’74, Jim Voss ’72 and the late Clifton Curtis Williams ’54 are the six Auburn alumni who won the coveted title of astronaut. .

In this esteemed group of six, each received the Auburn Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award and have combined to complete more than 20 space missions during their illustrious careers. Davis, Hartsfield, Mattingly, Thornton and Voss combined for more than 7,400 hours in space, with Williams logging more than 2,100 hours in a jet before he was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1967.

Four of the six astronauts – Davis (mechanical engineering), Mattingly (aeronautical engineering), Voss (aerospace engineering), and Williams (mechanical engineering) – earned degrees from Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, the largest of all colleges in Auburn .

“Auburn’s history with NASA, our space program and our country’s defense system is one of the richest in the country,” said Steve Taylor, acting dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering. “We’re so proud of the engineers at Auburn who helped blaze the trail, and we’re excited to play an even greater role in the 21st century as our country explores new frontiers to make our lives more efficient and our world one. safer place. ”

The other two, Hartsfield and Thornton, earned degrees in physics from the Auburn College of Science and Mathematics, or COSAM.

“COSAM prides itself on preparing students for exciting and rewarding careers in science,” said Ed Thomas, Acting Dean of COSAM. “Hank Hartsfield and Kathryn Thornton are two COSAM alumni who shaped the field of astronomy by selflessly serving on flight crews and completing space missions for the greater good. They serve as inspiration to the current generation of COSAM faculty and students who continue to advance our understanding of the space environment and man’s role in space.

Nearly 500 Auburn alumni have worked for NASA. Three of them – James W. Kennedy ’72, Lt. Gen. Forrest S. McCartney ’52, and Richard G. Smith ’51 – served as directors of Kennedy Space Center. This triumvirate represents 30% of those chosen for this prestigious post, as the center has had only 10 directors in its history.

Additionally, alumni like Todd May ’90 (former director of the Marshall Space Flight Center), Brooks Moore ’48 (more than 50 years working in the space industry), Jim Odom ’55 (directed the development of the telescope Hubble Space), John W. Thomas ’60 (instrumental in space programs for 60 years), Gerald W. Smith ’61, ’71 (40-year career including stints at Marshall Space Flight Center, NASA Headquarters and at Stennis Space Center), Tim Monk ’05 (former senior executive, New Glenn Project at Blue Origin) and Jonathan Mitchell ’13 (policy adviser for the New Zealand Space Agency) made considerable contributions to space exploration after their passage through the Plains.

Their exploits and the work of countless others are chronicled in the new landing site, which includes a news feed featuring past space-related articles posted through Auburn’s channels. The university’s commitment to excellence and the achievements of its alumni have been profound in virtually every field, and space exploration is no exception. This was highlighted by the new webpage, which celebrates their dedication to service and discovery.


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