Donald Peterson, Astronaut

Col. Donald Peterson has spent 24 years in the Air Force and has become a NASA astronaut during the Apollo era and also participated in the first spacewalk of the 30-year Space Shuttle program.

Astronaut Donald Peterson, who was first trained for the classified military space station program and then become the first people to spacewalk from the space shuttle has died on Sunday, May 27th, 2018.  His age was 84 when breathing his last. The association of Space Explorers on the Facebook page wrote on Monday that, “ So sad to report that we have lost another member of the astronaut family. Fair Skies and tailwinds, Don.”

Peterson joined NASA in September 1969, which was after two years he was chosen by the US Air Force among the third group of candidate pilots to crew the planned Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL). The clandestine reconnaissance platform was then cancelled before the launch and this lead to the Peterson and several of his fellow MOL trainees to join NASA’s astronaut corps.

In 2002, Peterson recounted in NASA oral history that, “You might think that there was a lot of- I mean, a bunch of screening and testing and all that. As far as I know, there was none. Fourteen people were crew on the MOL program, and they took the seven youngest people.”He added by saying, “ I am sure they did that because they figured it would be a while before we’d get a chance to fly.”

Peterson then waited for 14 years for his opportunity to fly into space and then his name was included in the first crew of the space shuttle Challenger. On April 4th, 1983, Peterson lifted off to space with STS-6 commander PaulWeitz, pilot Karol “Bo” Bobko and fellow mission specialist Story Musgrave. The five-day mission includes the deployment of the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-1) to support the communications between the space shuttle in Earth orbit and mission control present on the ground.  He had resigned from NASA in November 1984.

After the death of the 84-year-old Peterson, his family remembered him by saying, “Don would tell you his greatest joy was caring for and spending time with his wife and family. Saying ‘I love you’ came easily and often from him … He told his grandchildren, ‘holding them in his rocking chair was better than floating in space.’ His unconditional love for all of them will always be treasured.”


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