R.I.P. Hank Hartsfield

Henry Warren "Hank" Hartsfield, Jr. in an official picture as an astronaut (Photo NASA)
Henry Warren “Hank” Hartsfield, Jr. in an official picture as an astronaut (Photo NASA)

The former American astronaut Hank Hartsfield passed away yesterday, July 17, 2014, due to complications from the back surgery he had several months ago.

Henry Warren Hartsfield, Jr. was born on November 21, 1933 in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. After earning a bachelor of science degree in physics from Auburn University in 1954, he entered the U.S. Air Force in 1955 where he started training as a pilot. For some time he was a flight instructor and logged a total of more than 7,300 hours of flying time in various types of aircraft. In 1971 he obtained a master of science degree in engineering science from the University of Tennessee.

In 1969, Hank Hartsfield was selected as an astronaut by NASA. He was part of the support crew for the Apollo 16 mission and of the Skylab 2, 3 and 4 missions. In 1977 he retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel but continued in his service to NASA as a civilian.

After the start of the Space Shuttle program, Hank Hartsfield was part of the backup crew for the STS-2 and STS-3 missions. In 1982 he was the pilot of Space Shuttle Columbia on the STS-4 mission. In 1984 he was the commander of the Space Shuttle Discovery on the STS-41-D mission, Discovery’s maiden flight. In 1985 he was the commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger in the STS-61-A mission, the last successful one before the tragic destruction of the Challenger at the beginning of the next mission with the death of the crew.

In subsequent years, Hank Hartsfield served in various positions with NASA before leaving it in 1998. Among his last works for NASA, there was the one in the group that set up the basis for the International Space Station project. Until 2005, he work as anĀ  executive of the Raytheon Company, a major American company in the defense sector.

Hank Hartsfield is survived by his wife Judy Frances Massey, his daughter Judy and two grandchildren.

In the course of his life, Hank Hartsfield received several honors such as the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal and in 2006 was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. He also received NASA’s Distinguished Service Medals, Space Flight Medals and Exceptional Service Medal.

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