With some notable exceptions, space shuttle-era astronauts did not achieve the celebrity status of their predecessors during the race to the Moon. Partly that was because there were so many astronauts who flew the space shuttle.
Still, there are a few astronauts who have made history -- by previous notoriety, by achieving firsts, or by simple achievement. Two were politicians, then-Senator Jake Garn and then-Congressman and now Senator Bill Nelson. And there were fourteen who gave the last full measure of devotion in the advancement of space travel.
Here are a few of the astronauts who flew on the space shuttle, what they did then, and where they are now.
John Young, famous already for having flown on two Gemini missions, Apollo 10, and walked on the Moon as commander of Apollo 16, commanded the first space shuttle flight, STS-1 Columbia, as well as STS-9, which carried the first space lab. John Young retired from NASA in 2004, at the age of 74, though he still remains active in the advocacy of space exploration and the human settlement of the Moon and Mars.
Dr. Sally Ride was the first American woman in space, flying on Challenger STS 7 and STS 41 G. Ride's third shuttle flight was canceled due to the Challenger disaster. Ride has since served on a number of commissions, including both the Challenger and Columbia accident commissions, and on the Augustine Committee. Ride is currently on leave from the University of California at San Diego where she has been a professor of physics. She owns a company, Sally Ride Science, that creates science programs and publications aimed at upper elementary and middle school girls.
Colonel Guy Bluford was the first African American to fly in space onboard the STS-8 Challenger mission. Buford's other shuttle missions were STS 61-A, STS-39, and STS-53. Bluford left NASA in 1993 and is currently President of the Aerospace Technology, an engineering consulting organization in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dr. Storey Musgrave flew on six space shuttle missions; STS 6, STS 51F, STS 33, STS 44, STS 61, and STS 80. Musgrave won great fame on STS 61, the first Hubble repair mission, in which he helped to fix the then broken Hubble space telescope in three space walks. Currently, Musgrave operates a palm farm in Florida, a production company in Australia, and a sculpture company in California. He works as a consultant for the Walt Disney Company and Applied Minds. Musgrave also is an inspirational speaker and multimedia presenter.
Robert "Hoot" Gibson flew on five space shuttle missions, including STS 41-B, STS-61-C, STS 27, STS 47, and STS 71. The STS 71 mission was the first space shuttle docking with the Russian Mir space station. Since his NASA career, Gibson has flown as a pilot at Southwest Airlines and acted as Chief Operating Officer and Chief Test Pilot for Benson Space Company. Gibson flies as a demonstration pilot for Hawker Beechcraft Corporation and is serving as a spokesperson for radio-controlled model flight on behalf of the Academy of Model Aeronautics.
In Memoriam: Astronauts killed during space shuttle missions.
The crew of space shuttle Challenger during lift off of the STS 51-L mission on January 28th, 1986. They were Michael J. Smith, Dick Scobee, Ronald McNair, Ellison Onizuka, Christa McAuliffe, Gregory Jarvis, and Judith Resnik.
The crew of the space shuttle Columbia during reentry into the atmosphere during the final day of the mission of STS 107. They were Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, Michael P. Anderson, Ilan Ramon, Kalpana Chawla, David M. Brown, and Laurel Clark.