NASA today is remembering Don Peterson, who flew aboard the first flight of the Space Shuttle Challenger and took part in the first spacewalk of the shuttle program.
His May 27 death was reported by the Association of Space Explorers on its Facebook page.
His mission, STS-6, launched from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on April 4, 1983. The other crew members were commander Paul J. Weitz, pilot Karol J. Bobko and mission specialist Story Musgrave. During the flight, the crew conducted numerous experiments in materials processing, recorded lightning activities and deployed the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite. Peterson and Musgrave conducted a spacewalk to test the new suit, the Shuttle airlock and new tools and techniques for construction and repair outside a spacecraft. After 120 hours of orbital operations, the mission landed April 9.
Peterson was born in Winona, Miss., on Oct. 22, 1933. He graduated from Winona City High School and received a bachelor of science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., in 1955. He earned a master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1962.
Over his career, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the JSC Group Achievement Award.
After graduating from West Point, Peterson completed a variety of assignments. He spent four years as a flight instructor and military training officer with the Air Training Command. The Air Force Systems Command utilized him as a nuclear systems analyst for three years. He also served as a fighter pilot with Tactical Air Command for one year, including three months of combat weapons training. He was a graduate of the Aerospace Research Pilot School, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., and was one of the third group of astronauts assigned to the Air Force’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program. He logged more than 5,300 hours of flying time–including more than 5,000 hours in jet aircraft.
Peterson became a NASA astronaut in September 1969 and served on the astronaut support crew for Apollo 16. Peterson retired from the Air Force with the rank of colonel after more than 24 years of active service, but he continued his assignment as a NASA astronaut in a civilian capacity. His areas of responsibility included engineering support, man/machine interface and safety assessment.
Peterson resigned from the Astronaut Office in November 1984, working after that as a consultant in manned aerospace operations.