Most of the astronauts in the American space program come from New York State or California. Ohio has also produced several. West Virginia produced two.
U.S. Army Col. Andrew Morgan of Morgantown is currently aboard the International Space Station. Morgan and his family live in New Castle, Pennsylvania, and he made history in November by voting from space for the Pennsylvania elections.
But long before Morgan, there was Jon McBride. The 76-year-old McBride, born in Charleston, was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1978. He announced last week that he was retiring from the Lunch With an Astronaut program at the Kennedy Space Center.
McBride was the pilot of the Challenger space shuttle in October 1984, during which time the seven-member crew deployed a satellite and experimented with refueling a satellite.
One of McBride’s duties during his tenure at NASA was software verification, and in 2011 the Jon McBride software research and test lab was dedicated to Fairmont.
He was to command another space shuttle mission, but the Challenger tragedy in 1986 delayed that, and he retired from NASA in 1990.
McBride noted in his announcement last week that he was captivated by the astronauts who landed on the moon and he, too, sought a career in space.
“I was inspired by astronauts like Neil Armstrong who came before me, and I hope I have played a role in inspiring the next generation of space explorers. It was a joyful trip, ”he said.
Although the space shuttle program may not have been as impressive as the Apollo flights, it was still an important part of the progress in space exploration.
From the launch of the satellites to the construction of the Space Station, it was a work vehicle that has proven itself time and time again.
And the shuttle technology was light years away from the Apollo capsules. Driving the vehicle took someone with great skill and knowledge. McBride, a WVU graduate, has shown that he has the right things too.
For almost 20 years, McBride has been at the Kennedy Space Center to chat with visitors as an official astronaut guide and mentor to students who are considering life in space.
“Jon McBride is a living legend,” said Therrin Protze, chief operating officer of the Kennedy Space Center. “It has been an honor to see him share his experiences with our guests at the visitor complex over the past two decades.”
We salute McBride for his courage and his love of the space program. And just as the Apollo astronauts inspired it a generation ago, we thank him for his work with students today as they prepare for the moon, Mars and beyond in the 21st century. .