(NewsNation) — Three astronauts, including the commander of the last flight of the space shuttle program, were inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame on Saturday for their contributions to NASA and the space program.
Chris Ferguson, Sandy Magnus and David Leestma were all honored for lifetime work furthering human space exploration.
Ferguson is noted as the commander of the last space shuttle flight in 2011 and now works for Boeing.
“Chris was a pilot par excellence,” said former astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman. “After he left the astronaut office, he went on to work for Boeing and helped develop the Boeing capsule, which had a test flight recently; finally they had a successful test flight. He was actually scheduled to be a pilot on the first human flight of the Boeing capsule, withdrew for personal reasons but he still works for Boeing and is making great contributions.”
Leestma flew three missions on the space shuttle and retired from NASA in 2014. He twice won presidential honors for his work.
“He was No. 1 in his Navy test pilot school, brilliant guy and contributed an awful lot to the astronaut corps and to NASA in general,” Hoffman said. “So, well, well deserved.”
Magnus too flew on the last mission of the space shuttle in 2011 and has a long list of awards and honors tied to her career in space.
“Sandy was actually on a couple of space shuttle flights, and she actually spent about 140 days on the International Space Station,” Hoffman said. “And after she retired from the astronaut corps, she was for several years the executive secretary of the American Institute of American Astronautics and Aeronautics. “Now she is actually working with Virgin Galactic to try to make space flight accessible to a lot more people.”
Hoffman, a 2007 inductee of the Astronaut Hall of Fame, said there is nothing quite like the feeling an astronaut gets when their spacecraft rockets out of the atmosphere and into space, powered by unimaginable amounts of explosive power. But when all the excitement has subsided, the astronauts are still expected to get important work done.
That work is where the Hall of Fame astronauts make their mark.
“One of the things about the Astronaut Hall of Fame is it’s not only what you accomplish as an astronaut, but what you’ve contributed afterwards to NASA and to the space program in general,” Hoffman said. “All three of these inductees have made incredible contributions both as astronauts and after leaving the astronaut office.”