Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex will add two new plaques to its walls this year. Astronauts Roy Bridges and Senator Mark Kelly were selected to receive one of the highest honors in their industry for their outstanding contributions to NASA's mission of exploration and discovery. Curt Brown, Board Chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and oversees the selection process, made the announcement.
According to a release, the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame was spearheaded more than 30 years ago by the six surviving Mercury 7 astronauts. In November 2016, a new U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame opened at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex as part of the Heroes & Legends attraction.
Each year, a committee of Hall of Fame astronauts, former NASA officials, flight directors, historians, and journalists, selects inductees who must have made their first flight at least 15 years before the induction. Candidates must be U.S. citizens and either a NASA-trained Space Shuttle Commander (CDR), Pilot (PLT), Mission Specialist (MS), or an International Space Station (ISS) Commander (CDR) or Flight Engineer (FE) who has orbited the earth at least once and whose last day eligible for flight assignment as a NASA astronaut was at least five years before nomination.
"This year's class is another example of the excellence of our space program," said Curt Brown. "Both Kelly and Bridges embody the spirit of exploration, bravery, and teamwork that make our space program a continued success. We are proud to have them join the ranks of the space pioneers recognized in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame."
Bridges and Kelly each have had distinguished careers centered around their love of space and science:
Roy Bridges is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Purdue University, earning a bachelor's degree in engineering management and a master's degree in astronautics, respectively. Bridges served as the Center Director at Kennedy Space Center from 1997 to 2003 and will return to his "home."
Mark Kelly, a U.S. Navy combat pilot, a NASA astronaut, and now a U.S. Senator for Arizona, will reunite with his twin brother, Scott, a Hall of Fame inductee in 2020. They will be the first siblings, and the first set of identical twins, to both, hold a place in the esteemed group. Kelly will also be the second sitting Senator inducted into the Hall of Fame, following John Glenn in 1990.
The official induction ceremony and gala will take place at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on May 6, 2023. The event, which will have numerous astronaut legends attending, will be set against the backdrop of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Following the ceremony, the newest Hall of Fame members will be honored at a black-tie event hosted by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation.