Bob Crippen hadn’t planned to fly for NASA. A Navy pilot, he signed up in 1966 for a military space station program that was later cancelled. So he transferred to NASA two months after the first moon landing, and waited. Assigned to the first space shuttle flight in 1981 with Apollo veteran John Young, Crippen became more closely associated with the shuttle than any other astronaut. He flew on four of its first 13 flights, three as commander. He went on to serve as director of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, headquarters for shuttle operations, where, he says, “you see the same level of pride from the launch director down to the guy who pushes the broom cleaning up the place.” Crippen remains an unwavering shuttle lover. Will we regret sidelining the vehicle without a replacement in hand, just as we now kick ourselves for retiring the Saturn V moon rocket? “I think we will have that conversation,” he says.
Photos from: "Shuttlenauts" »