Former astronaut and test pilot C. Gordon Fullerton, who logged two space flights and more than 16,000 hours in the air as a test pilot, died Wednesday, The Associated Press said
Fullerton, 76, had an acute stroke in 2009 and was in a long-term care facility. He worked with NASA as an astronaut from 1968 to 1986, then moved into test piloting and eventually was a chief pilot before retiring in 2007 after a 49-year career, according to a NASA biography
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Fullerton’s first space mission was aboard the Columbia shuttle in 1982, and it lasted eight days. In 1985, he was commander of the Challenger shuttle on another flight that performed scientific experiments.
After the 2003 disaster that occurred when the Columbia disintegrated during re-entry, which killed seven crew members, Fullerton was quoted as saying it was the worst disaster NASA had faced.
“Heroes, indeed they are. But in their own minds, they did not consider themselves heroes. I am sure they felt like the luckiest people on Earth as they snapped in at the pad,” Fullerton said, according to the AP. “Columbia was a magnificent machine. She carried us to the greatest adventures of our lives. ... It was indeed a magic carpet ride.”
Fullerton was in the Air Force for 30 years, retiring as a Colonel in 1988. He piloted more than 135 aircraft during his career, the NASA website said.
He was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame and the International Space Hall of Fame.
CBS News reported that a funeral Mass is planned for Saturday
in Lancaster, Calif., and NASA will celebrate the famed astronaut’s life Monday at its Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, Calif.
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