The Michigan Engineer News Center

Michigan Engineers: Elite Astronaut Corps

Of the relatively few astronauts in the history of the world, more than our fair share have been Michigan Engineers.| Medium Read

In the history of the world, only 500 or so individuals have been trained as professional astronauts.

NASA’s first class of Astronaut Corps, nicknamed “Mercury Seven,” or the “Original Seven,” debuted in 1959. Since then, 22 groups of elite men and women have followed.

These are the Michigan Engineers who are counted among this elite corps.

Astronaut Group 2

Nickname: The New Nine, or the Nifty Nine

Ed White

Enlargeastronaut floating in space
IMAGE:  Ed White

Did you know? As Ed stood in his seat, preparing for egress, he checked his camera equipment three times before heading out for his space walk.

“I wanted to make sure I didn’t leave the lens cap on… I knew I might as well not come back if I did.”

1959: Earned MS Aero

1965: Gemini 4 — Pilot. White completed the first American EVA (Extravehicular Activity, also known as “spacewalk”) outside of Earth’s Orbit.

1967: Apollo 1 — Senior Pilot. Killed in fire during a launch pad test one month before launch at the age of 37.

James A. McDivitt

EnlargePortrait of James McDivitt in astronaut uniform
IMAGE:  James McDivitt

Did you know? Ed White and James McDivitt were always running into each other. McDivitt was selected as command pilot for the Gemini 4 flight, with Ed White serving as pilot. Both had earned degrees in aeronautical engineering at the University of Michigan in 1959. While Ed was pursuing a masters’ degree, Jim was studying for his bachelor of science degree.

1959: Earned BSE Aero

1965: Gemini 4 — Command Pilot. The first U.S. astronaut to command his first spaceflight.

1969: Apollo 9 — Commander. First manned flight of Lunar Module. In August, he became Manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program and was the program manager for Apollo 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.

1972: Retired from NASA

Astronaut Group 3

Nickname: The “Original 14”

Theodore Freeman

EnlargePortrait of Theodore Freeman
IMAGE:  Theodore Freeman

Did you know? Theodore Freeman was the first NASA astronaut corps death. His wife received the news from a reporter, which resulted in a change in policy for notifying family members.

Quote: “We don’t look on this as dangerous work. It’s about the most fascinating job I could imagine.”

1960: Earned MSE Aero

1963: Died in a T-38 crash (age 33) after a winter goose flew into his engine

David Scott

Enlargeside portrait of David Scott in aviator sunglasses
IMAGE:  David Scott

Quote: “Man must explore. And this is exploration at its greatest.”

1966: Gemini 8 — Pilot. Scott made his first flight into space with Neil Armstrong.

1969: Apollo 9 — Command Module Pilot. Spent ten days in orbit with Commander James McDivitt

1971: Apollo 15 — Commander. Scott and Jim Irwin landed the Lunar Module on the moon.

Scott received an Honorary Doctorate from University of Michigan.

Astronaut Group 5

Nickname: Original Nineteen

EnlargePortrait of Jack Lousma in his astronaut gear
IMAGE:  Jack Lousma

Jack Lousma

Did you know? Lousma famously was the CAPCOM recipient of the, “Houston, we’ve had a problem” message from Apollo 13.

1959: Earned BSE Aero

1982: Lousma spent two months in space aboard Skylab II and was the commander of the third space shuttle flight in 1982

1984: Lousma was the Republican nominee for a seat in the United States Senate from Michigan, losing to incumbent Carl Levin, who won his second of six terms as a result.

Alfred Worden

EnlargeAl Worden in space on the side of a ship
IMAGE:  Al Worden

Did you know? Worden was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, as “The Most Isolated Human Being,” for his time alone in Endeavour at the moon.

1963: Earned MSE Aero

1966: One of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA

1971: Command Module Pilot for Apollo 15, received Honorary Doctorate of Science from University of Michigan

1982: Worden ran for the United States House of Representatives in Florida’s 12th congressional district but lost the Republican primary to state senator Tom Lewis.

James “Jim” Irwin

EnlargeJim Irwin on the moon
IMAGE:  Jim Irwin

Did you know? Jim Irwin had heart problems in space. His doctor said, “It’s serious. If he were on Earth, I’d have him in ICU being treated for a heart attack… He’s getting one hundred percent oxygen, he’s being continuously monitored, and best of all, he’s in zero g. Whatever strain his heart is under, well, we can’t do better than zero g.”

1954: Earned MSE Aero

1971: Apollo 15 — Lunar Module Pilot (LMP). Irwin was on the moon for about 3 days, and helped to find the Genesis Rock, one of the most important discoveries of the Apollo era.

1972: Resigned from NASA and the Air Force to form a religious organization

1991: Died of a heart attack

Astronaut Group 6

Nickname: XS-11 (The Excess Eleven)

EnlargeGroup picture of the astronauts
IMAGE:  Karl Henize, second from left.

Karl Henize

Did you know? At the time, he was oldest man to fly in space.

1954: Earned PhD Aero

1985: As a Mission Specialist on the Spacelab-2 mission (STS-51-F), Henize flew on Space Shuttle Challenger in July and August

1993: Died on Mt. Everest (aged 66) and buried there

EnlargePortrait of Tony England in NASA uniform
IMAGE:  Tony England

Tony England

Did you know? He is currently the dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan Dearborn.

1985: England flew on STS-51-F, which carried a seven-man crew, and on Spacelab-2

1986: From May 1986 to May 1987, England served as a program scientist for the International Space Station.

1988: England retired from NASA

astronaut floating in space
Portrait of James McDivitt in astronaut uniform
Portrait of Theodore Freeman
side portrait of David Scott in aviator sunglasses
Portrait of Jack Lousma in his astronaut gear
Al Worden in space on the side of a ship
Jim Irwin on the moon
Group picture of the astronauts
Portrait of Tony England in NASA uniform
Portrait of Brad Whitehouse


Brad Whitehouse
Editor for Alumni Communications

Michigan Engineering
Communications & Marketing

(734) 647-7089

3214 SI-North

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