Friday, April 20, 2012

Famous Floridian Friday - Norman Thagard - The First American Cosmonaut


Florida Native Norman Thagard is a Scientist and NASA astronaut - and the First American to be a Cosmonaut aboard a Russian spacecraft!  


Space Shuttle Astronaut Norman Earl Thagard was born on July 3, 1943 in Marianna, Florida.  He is the son of James Thagard and Mary Key Thagard.

Thagard went to school in Jacksonville, Florida, which he considers his hometown.  He studied at Paxon Senior High School, graduating in 1961.   

Thagard attended undergraduate school at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida, receiving a Bachelors of Science degree in Engineering in 1965 and a Master’s of Science Engineering degree in 1966.  He also completed pre-med coursework while at Florida State University.  He held teaching and research posts while studying at FSU.

Thagard enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve and entered active duty in September 1966.  He achieved the rank of Captain in 1967 and became a naval aviator in 1968 flying F-4 Phantoms with the VMFA-333 at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, South Carolina.  Thagard flew 163 combat missions in Viet Nam during 1969-1970.  As a pilot, Thagard has logged over 2,200 hours flying time, the majority in jet aircraft.



In 1971, Thagard resumed his academic studies obtaining degrees in both electrical engineering and medicine.  In 1977, he received a doctor of medicine degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas. 

Thagard was interning at the Medical University of South Carolina at the time he was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978.   He completed a one-year training period with NASA and became eligible for assignment as a mission specialist in August 1979. 





STS-7 Crew: Norman Thagard, Bob Crippen, Sally Ride, John Fabian - Pilot Frederick Hauk is in front
Norman Thagard is a veteran of five space flights.  He logged more than 140 days in space. 

On June 18, 1983, Thagard was a mission specialist on Space Shuttle STS-7, which was the second flight for the Challenger Spacecraft and the first mission with a crew of five. Mission duration was 147 hours and the crew returned home on June 24, 1983.




Landing at Edwards Air Force Base
On April 29, 1985 Thagard flew on STS-51B, the Spacelab-3 science mission, once again aboard the Challenger. He assisted the commander and pilot on ascent and entry. Mission duration was 168 hours. After 110 orbits of Earth, Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California on May 6, 1985. 



On May 4, 1989, Norman Thagard served on the crew of STS-30 aboard Atlantis. During this four day mission, the crew deployed the Magellan Venus Exploration Spacecraft, the first U.S. planetary science mission launched since 1978, and the first planetary probe deployed from the Shuttle.   Magellan arrived at Venus in mid-1990 and mapped the entire surface of Venus using specialized radar instruments. In addition, crew members were also involved in fluid research, chemistry and electrical storm studies. Mission duration was 97 hours. Following 64 orbits of the Earth,  STS-30 landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California on May 8, 1989.

Russian MIR and US Space Shuttle
On January 22, 1992, Thagard was the payload commander on STS-42 aboard the Shuttle Discovery. Fifty five major experiments conducted for eleven countries representing a broad spectrum of disciplines.  The eight-day mission culminated at Edwards Air Force Base, California on January 30, 1992.

Cosmonaut Norman Thagard on the Russian MIR
On March 14, 1995, Norman Thagard was the first American to ride on board a Russian space vehicle, the Soyuz TM-21 spacecraft where he was a cosmonaut/researcher on the Russian Mir-18 mission.  Twenty eight experiments were conducted in 115 days of flight. Liftoff of the Soyuz TM-21 was from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan.  Thagard’s mission ended with the landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 7, 1995.  This would be Norman Thagard’s final mission for NASA.

Since leaving NASA, Norman Thagard has led an active professional life.  Here are some of his post-NASA accomplishments: (1)
  • Tenured Professor at the FAMU – FSU College of Engineering. 
  • Co-founder and Executive Director, Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee, which is equipped with shuttle/mission control/space station simulators, digital space theater/planetarium and an IMAX theater.
  • Member of the Board of Directors of EMS Technologies, Inc., an Atlanta-based communications company.
  • Member, Editorial Review Board of the Journal of the Society for Human Performance in Extreme Environments.
  • Distinguished Lecturer for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
  • Aerospace consultant and was technical advisor on the movies "Virus," starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland, and on "Armageddon" starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler.
  • Advisor for Space Adventures, Ltd., which offers aerospace experiences, including orbital flight.
  • Received his Masters in Business Administration from the University of Florida in 2007.
Norman Thagard and author of Red Moon Chris Berman
Norman Thagard has received the following honors and awards: (2)
  • Inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame (2004)
  • Who's Who In America; Who's Who In Science and Engineering
  • Erskine Visiting Fellow, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, N.Z., (2001)
  • Designated Honorary Conch and Citizen of the Florida Keys (2000)
  • Participated in the 1998 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on an award-winning float ("Best Animation")
  • Admitted to FSU's Circle of Gold Honorary Society (1998)
  • A small portion of Jacksonville, Florida's 5th Street, in front of his alma mater, Paxon High School, re-named "Norman E. Thagard" Blvd (1998)
  • Recognized in Guinness Book of Records for setting U.S. human space flight records (1997)
  • The Society of NASA Flight Surgeons' 1997 W. Randolph Lovelace Award
  • Recipient of Russia's Order of Friendship, presented personally by Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin (1996)
  • Named as one of NASA's 15 "Superstars of Space Flight" (1996)
  • Inducted into New Mexico's International Space Hall of Fame (1996)
  • American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' 1996 Jeffries Medical Research Award
  • Aerospace Medical Association's 1996 Hubertus Strughold Award for Space Medicine
  • At the request of the Smithsonian Institution, his Russian "SOKOL" space suit was donated to the National Air & Space Museum (1996)
  • Henry G. Armstrong Lecturer in Aerospace Medicine (1996)
  • Florida Senate Commendation Resolution (1996)
  • City of Tallahassee Commendation Proclamation (1995 and 2004)
  • Aviation Week & Space Technology's 1995 Laurels Award
  • American Astronautical Society's 1983 and 1995 Melbourne W. Boynton Award
  • Florida State University's "Grad Made Good" award (1983) and Wescott Medal (1995)
  • Designated by the Commandant of the Marine Corps an honorary Naval Astronaut Pilot (1992)
  • Florida State University’s student health center designated the “Thagard Student Health Center” by legislative act (1986)
  • NASA Space Flight Medals
  • NASA Distinguished Service Medal
  • NASA Sustained Superior Performance Award (twice)
  • Air Medals (11)
  • The Navy Commendation Medal with Combat "V"
  • The Marine Corps “E” Award
  • The Vietnam Service Medal
  • The Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm
Norman Thagard and a young fan

Norman Thagard now lives in Jacksonville, Florida.  He is married to Rex Kirby Johnson Thagard, formerly of South Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. The couple has three sons. Thagard’s hobbies include listening to classical music and electronic design, an area in which he's published several articles in engineering journals.  








&  at  







1,2 - Lists of awards and post-NASA accomplishments courtesy of Wikipedia - Photos from NASA

@Sanne Collins 2012 - All Rights Reserved



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