The next time you are in Titusville, Florida, you may want to take the chance to check out the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame, which harbors the largest collection of personal astronaut memorabilia in the world. The conception of this Hall of Fame came in the 1980s, as the six remaining Mercury Seven astronauts brainstormed an idea to create a place where travelers of space could be remembered and receive honor. Soon after, the Mercury Seven Foundation and Astronaut Scholarship Foundations were established and one of their main responsibilities became overseeing the operations of the Hall of Fame.
On October 29th, 1990, the Astronaut Hall of Fame opened by the United State Space Camp Foundation, which were known as the first owners of the museum. The Hall of Fame was situated next to the Florida branch of Space Camp. Throughout the years, the Hall of Fame fell upon hard times, as low attendance and increasing money woes forced the property to close its doors for a couple of months in 2002. That same year, an auction took place and the Delaware North Park services (on behalf of NASA) purchased the property and made it part of the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The Hall of Fame stayed close until December of 2002, where it was then reopened to the public.
Becoming an Inductee of the Hall of Fame
To become an inductee of the Hall of Fame, a collection of former NASA officials, flight controllers, journalists, historians, and other space-related personnel form what is known as the “blue ribbon” committee. They mull over potential inductees and rank their various accomplishments and how they measure up to the advancement in space exploration.
The inaugural class in 1990 inducted the “Mercury Seven” because of their many contributions to space exploration. Many firsts were accomplishments by these men. For example, Alan Shepherd was the first American in space and would later serve as one of the 12 men who would take pleasure in walking on the moon. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth, while Gus Grissom became the first American to reach space two times and would later become the unfortunate commander of the failed Apollo 1. This would also mark the first American death associated with space travel or spaceflight preparation.
In 1993, thirteen astronauts from the Gemini and Apollo programs were inducted, which included the first and last men to walk on the moon (Neil Armstrong and Eugene Cernan). Ed White was inducted as the first American to walk in space. He also lost his life during the Apollo 1 incident. The commander of the well-known near-fatal Apollo 13 mission (James Lovell) was also added to the Hall of Fame list. John Young, who clocked in six flights (including a walk on the moon and command of the first space shuttle mission), also became a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame.
In Part 2 of ” Pay a Visit to Astronaut Hall of Fame,” you will learn more about additional inductees of the museum, an interesting controversy, as well as some of the exhibits on the premises.