By National Museum of the Marine Corps

Spaceflight: The Marine Astronauts Part 2—Building A Permanent Presence: 1970–2019

Learn about the individual U.S. Marines who have made significant contributions to the success of spaceflight.

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Spaceflight: The Marine Astronauts features artifacts and imagery from U.S. Marine Corps astronauts who have made and continue to make significant contributions to the space program. This online version of the exhibition is divided into three sections and covers distinctive phases of the space program: To the Moon: 1961–1969; Building A Permanent Presence: 1970–2019; and New Ventures: Return to the Moon and Beyond: 2020–Today.

Building A Permanent Presence: 1970–2019

Since 1973, low-Earth orbit missions have typified human spaceflight. Skylab, Apollo-Soyuz, Space Shuttle, and International Space Station (ISS) missions increased spaceflight experience and offered new ways to study Earth and the cosmos. Skylab, the first American space station, provided the opportunity to undertake lengthy research experiments as well as studying the effects of prolonged time in space on the human body.

The Apollo-Soyuz mission marked the first docking of spacecraft from different countries with close cooperation of their crews. The 135 space shuttle missions brought hundreds of men and women to space to deploy, retrieve or repair satellites, and to support numerous international research programs. The ISS has made possible continuous human presence in space for almost twenty years.

Marine astronauts have made significant contributions to all these programs, whether commanding missions, making multiple spaceflights, or completing numerous extravehicular activities.

Colonel Gerald P. Carr by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Colonel Gerald P. Carr

Gerald Carr flew Marine Corps fighters for five years prior to being selected to become a NASA astronaut in April 1966. He helped develop and test NASA’s lunar rover vehicle used by the Apollo crews.

Carr commanded Skylab 4 during an 84-day mission in 1973–1974, where he completed three spacewalks and tested the Automatically Stabilized Maneuvering Unit (ASMU), a backpack that allowed an astronaut to maneuver in space. The ASMU was a predecessor to NASA’s Manned Maneuvering Unit, which allowed for untethered flight outside a spacecraft on later space shuttle missions.

Gerald Carr Skylab 4 Flight Jacket and Trousers NASA (1973) by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Skylab 4 Flight Jacket and Trousers

Carr wore this flight jacket and trousers on Skylab 4, the third manned Skylab mission from November 1973 to February 1974. The mission set an endurance record for space flight and Carr participated in three of the crew’s four space walks outside the Skylab.

Major Vance D. Brand, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Apollo-Soyuz Intra-Vehicular Cover Layer and Gloves, NASA, 1975, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Vance Brand was the Apollo command module pilot for the historic Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission in 1975. The ASTP marked the first time that American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts met in space. Brand went on to command three space shuttle missions in 1982, 1984, and 1990, accumulating 746 hours in space. Prior to his NASA career, he had served as a Marine Corps fighter pilot from 1953 to 1957 and worked as a civilian test pilot for the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. Brand wore this spacesuit cover layer and gloves during the Apollo Soyuz Test Project in July 1975.

Colonel Jack R. Lousma by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Colonel Jack R. Lousma

Jack Lousma joined the Marine Corps in 1959, serving with Marine Attack Squadron 224 and Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron 2. Lousma was one of 19 astronauts selected in 1966. He piloted the 1973 Skylab 3 mission, which travelled more than 24.4 million miles and completed 333 medical experiments. 

Lousma made two spacewalks, spending a total of more than 11 hours in space. In 1982, Lousma was the commander of the Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-3, the third space shuttle orbital test flight.

Colonel Robert Overmyer, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Robert Overmyer joined the Marines in 1958 and was selected in 1966 for the USAF’s Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) Program. Following MOL’s cancellation in 1969, Overmyer joined NASA and became a support crew member for Apollo 17 and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and later a chase pilot for the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Test Program. On 11 November 1982, Overmyer piloted Columbia on STS-5, the first fully operational space shuttle mission, which happened to be commanded by fellow Marine astronaut Vance D. Brand. Overmyer later commanded the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1985 on STS-51B.

Colonel David C. Hilmers (1990) by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

As a mission specialist, Hilmers made four trips to space between 1985 and 1992, including classified Department of Defense space shuttle missions. In 1988, he was a member of the Space Shuttle Discovery’s crew during STS-26, the first space shuttle mission following the loss of Challenger in 1986.

Colonel David C. Hilmers

David Hilmers received his commission in 1972, served as a bombardier-navigator with Marine All-Weather Attack Squadron 121, and in 1975 served as an air liaison officer with the 1st Battalion, 2d Marines. NASA selected him as an astronaut in August 1981.

Colonel Robert C. Springer by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Colonel Robert C. Springer

During his two Vietnam combat tours, Robert Springer flew over 550 combat missions in fighter/attack aircraft, observation airplanes, and helicopters. He received both the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross and the Bronze Star.

Springer became a test pilot in 1975 and was serving as the aide-de-camp to the commanding general, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, when NASA selected him as an astronaut candidate in 1980. After completing two years of training and becoming an astronaut, Springer completed space shuttle missions aboard Discovery in March 1989 and Atlantis in November 1990.

Colonel Bryan D. O'Connor by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Colonel Bryan D. O’Connor

Bryan O’Connor graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1968 and piloted attack aircraft in the Marine Corps. He served as a test pilot from 1975 to 1979 and joined NASA in 1980. O’Connor commanded Columbia on STS-40 in 1991, the first shuttle mission solely dedicated to life science research.

Astronauts used the Spacelab Life Sciences-1 module, a self-contained research laboratory carried in Columbia’s cargo bay, to conduct experiments on themselves, rodents, and jellyfish. Between 2002 and 2011, O’Connor was responsible for the safety of all NASA programs, including the ISS.

Colonel James F. Buchli, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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U.S. Naval Academy graduate James Buchli served in Vietnam as a platoon and company commander prior to completing naval flight officer training in 1969. Buchli served with several Marine Fighter Attack squadrons before attending the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1977 and becoming an astronaut in 1979. He completed four space shuttle missions between 1985 and 1991 as a mission specialist, orbiting the Earth 319 times and traveling 7.74 million miles. After serving as the Deputy Chief of the NASA Astronaut Office, Buchli retired from the USMC and NASA in 1992.

Dr. Franklin "Story" Musgrave by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Dr. Franklin “Story” Musgrave

Franklin “Story” Musgrave joined the Marine Corps in 1953, working as an aviation electrician, instrument technician, and aircraft crew chief. He served with NASA from 1967 to 1997, participating in three Skylab missions and in the development of equipment used in extravehicular activities.

Musgrave was a crew member on six space shuttle missions between 1983 and 1996, and was the payload commander on STS-61, which successfully repaired the Hubble Space Telescope.

Colonel Kenneth D. Cameron by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Colonel Kenneth D. Cameron

Kenneth D. Cameron served in Vietnam as a 5th Marines platoon commander and with the security detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon. After flight school and service with Marine Attack Squadron 223, Cameron entered the NASA astronaut program in 1984.

He became NASA’s first Director of Operations at the cosmonaut training center in Star City, Russia. In 1995, Cameron commanded Atlantis on STS-74, which installed a docking module onto the Russian Space Station Mir. Following the loss of Columbia in 2003, NASA formed the Engineering and Safety Center and selected Cameron as its first Principal Engineer.

Lieutenant Colonel Andrew M. Allen, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Andrew Allen entered the Marine Corps from Villanova University in 1977. Allen flew F-4 Phantom IIs before transitioning to the F/A-18 Hornet. He completed the U.S. Navy’s “Top Gun” fighter pilot school and was accepted as an astronaut candidate while attending U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1987. Allen piloted two space shuttle missions, prior to commanding STS-75 in 1996, during which a large number of experiments with crystal growth in microgravity were conducted. When he retired from the Marine Corps and NASA in 1997, Allen was the Director of Space Station Requirements for the ISS.

Major General Charles F. Bollden, Jr. by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Major General Charles F. Bolden Jr.

Charles F. Bolden flew over 100 missions over southeast Asia before becoming an astronaut candidate in 1980. He flew four space shuttle missions between 1986 and 1994, including piloting STS-31, which deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, and commanding STS-60, the first joint U.S.-Russian space shuttle mission.

In 1994, Bolden returned to the Marines and was promoted to major general in 1998. Bolden was nominated to become the NASA Administrator in 2009 and led the agency until 2017. He fostered NASA’s support of private commercial low-Earth orbit space programs, as well as the development of NASA’s own Orion spacecraft.

Colonel Terrence Wilcutt, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Terrence Wilcutt earned his naval aviator wings in 1978, flew with several USMC squadrons, and attended U.S. Naval Test Pilot School prior to his selection for astronaut training in 1990. In 1996, Wilcutt piloted Atlantis on a mission to resupply the Russian Space Station Mir. He returned to Mir as mission commander of STS-89 in 1998. These resupply missions helped foster multinational cooperation needed for future ISS operations. During his career, Wilcutt completed four space shuttle missions and served as NASA’s Chief of Safety and Mission Assurance from 2011 to 2020.

Senator John H. Glenn, Jr. (1998) by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Medical examinations following the mission showed that Glenn’s body responded to weightlessness no differently than much younger astronauts and NASA gained confidence in selecting older candidates for future missions.

Senator John H. Glenn, Jr.

On 29 October 1998, John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, returned to space as a payload specialist aboard the Discovery. NASA wanted to investigate the effects of weightlessness on older subjects and Senator Glenn, at age 77, volunteered to become the oldest person to orbit the Earth.

Space Shuttle Crew Caps, NASA, 1998/2011, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Space shuttle crews flew with ball caps unique to each mission. The blue cap flew with Senator John Glenn aboard the Discovery in 1998 when Glenn returned to space for the first time since piloting Friendship 7 in 1962. The “7” in the STS-95 insignia represents Glenn’s 1962 Project Mercury mission in the Friendship 7 capsule. Col Douglas G. Hurley wore the red cap aboard the Atlantis in 2011 during the final space shuttle mission.

John Glenn STS-95 Astronaut Nametag NMMC, NASA, 1998, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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On 29 October 1998, John Glenn returned to space as a payload specialist with the STS-95 crew aboard Discovery exactly 36 years, eight months, and nine days after becoming the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962.

Colonel Robert D. Cabana, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Robert Cabana U.S. Naval Aviator Polo Shirt, Robert Cabana, 1998, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Robert D. Cabana graduated from the Naval Academy in 1971 and flew more than 50 aircraft types during his career as a Marine flight officer, aviator, and test pilot. He joined NASA in 1985, piloting or commanding four space shuttle missions. Cabana commanded Endeavour during STS-88, the first ISS assembly mission. Cabana and Cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev were the first people to enter the new ISS on 10 December 1988. Cabana wore this polo shirt in December 1998 while aboard Endeavour. Cabana was named NASA’s Associate Administrator in May 2021.

Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Noriega by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

NASA selected Noriega for astronaut training in 1994, making him the first Peruvian-born astronaut. He flew on  Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1997 and aboard the Endeavor in 2000, during which he spent over 19 hours outside the ISS installing solar arrays and structural components.

Lieutenant Colonel Carlos Noriega

Commissioned in 1981, Carlos Noriega became a CH-46 Sea Knight transport helicopter pilot. He attended the Naval Postgraduate School and was assigned to the U.S. Space Command in 1990, where he served as a Space Surveillance Center Commander.

Colonel Christopher Joseph Loira, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Christopher Joseph “Gus” Loria graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1983 and flew 42 combat missions during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After graduating from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School in 1993, Loria flew as a NASA test pilot before being selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996. He was assigned to pilot Endeavour on STS-113, but an off-duty accident required his replacement on that crew. Loria returned to active duty with the Marine Corps in 2005 and served as Director of Operations for the North American Aerospace Defense Command before retiring in 2008.

Colonel George D. Zamka by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Colonel George D. Zamka

George Zamka graduated from the Naval Academy in 1984 and flew 66 combat missions in F/A-18D Hornets during Operation Desert Storm. In 1994, he enrolled in the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, and NASA selected him as an astronaut candidate in 1998.

Zamka piloted Discovery on STS-120 in 2007, delivering and installing the ISS’s Harmony node, an internal connecting port and passageway to international science labs and cargo spacecraft. He commanded Endeavor on STS-130 in December 2008, during which  astronauts added the Tranquility node to the ISS.

Colonel Frederick Sturckow, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Frederick “Rick” Sturckow joined the Marine Corps in 1984, earning his wings in 1987. A graduate of the U.S. Navy’s “Top Gun” school, Sturckow completed 41 combat missions in Operation Desert Storm before attending the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and being selected as an astronaut candidate in 1994. Sturckow flew four space shuttle missions as a pilot and commander, and officially retired from the Marine Corps in September 2009 while aboard the ISS. Sturckow left NASA in 2013 to join Virgin Galactic as a test pilot and is now a Federal Aviation Administration-certified Commercial Astronaut.

Colonel Charles O. Hobaugh, NASA, From the collection of: National Museum of the Marine Corps
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Charles “Scorch” Hobaugh graduated from Annapolis in 1984, and flew combat missions with Marine Attack Squadron 331 during Operation Desert Storm. NASA selected Hobaugh for astronaut training in 1996 while he was serving as an instructor at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. He flew three missions to the ISS, piloting Atlantis in 2001 and Endeavor in 2007, and commanded Atlantis during STS-129 in 2009. Prior to his retirement from NASA in 2011, Hobaugh helped develop new procedures for space shuttles to rendezvous and dock with other spacecraft.

Colonel Randy Bresnik by NASANational Museum of the Marine Corps

Colonel Randy Bresnik

Randolph “Komrade” Bresnik entered the USMC in 1989 and flew combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom prior to joining NASA in 2004. His first space mission was STS-129 in 2009 aboard Atlantis. Bresnik then completed a three-year tour as NASA’s lead astronaut working in partnership with SpaceX on its Dragon commercial spacecraft.

In July 2017, Bresnik joined ISS Expeditions 52/53. During this five-month mission, he served as the Flight Engineer of Expedition 52, and Commander of the ISS for Expedition 53. Bresnik has completed five spacewalks totaling 32 hours in space.

Randy Bresnik Russian Cosmonaut Flight Suit (2017) by Colonel Randy “Komerade” BresnikNational Museum of the Marine Corps

Russian Cosmonaut Flight Suit

Bresnik purchased this custom flight suit from a Russian company that produces clothing for cosmonauts and wore it to celebrate the Marine Corps birthday while in orbit on 10 November 2017 as the commander of the International Space Station.

Credits: Story

The exhibition Spaceflight: The Marine Astronauts was developed by the National Museum of the Marine Corps. It is on exhibit at the Museum through January 2024.

Images used in this exhibition appear courtesy of NASA.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.