George “Pinky” Nelson, William M. Shepherd and James D. Wetherbee will join an elite group of American space heroes as they are inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® during a public ceremony at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Saturday, May 2, 2009. They will be welcomed to the ranks of legendary space pioneers like Neil Armstrong, John Glenn, Alan Shepard, Jim Lovell, Sally Ride and John Young – distinguished members of this unique Hall of Fame.
This is the eighth group of Space Shuttle astronauts named to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Earlier inductees represent the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz programs. The addition of Nelson, one of only four space shuttle astronauts to fly the Manned Maneuvering Unit untethered in space; Shepherd, commander of the first crew to man the International Space Station; and Wetherbee, commander of the longest docked shuttle-Mir mission, will bring the number of space explorers enshrined in the Hall of Fame to 73.
The 2009 inductees were selected by a committee of current Hall of Fame astronauts, former NASA officials and flight directors, historians, journalists and other space authorities. The process is administered by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, a non-profit organization established in 1984 to support students seeking degrees in science and technology. To be eligible, an astronaut must have made his or her first flight at least 17 years before the induction year and must be retired at least five years from NASA’s astronaut corps. Candidates must be a U.S. citizen, NASA-trained, commander, pilot or mission specialist and must have orbited the earth at least once. Committee members receiving ballots evaluate not only an individual’s flight accomplishments but also how he or she contributed to the success and future success of the U.S. Space Program in post-flight assignments.