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NASA chooses two alumni to be astronauts

Two Institute graduates will be members of NASA's astronaut candidate class of 2000, bringing the total MIT alumni who have been selected by NASA to 31, more than from any other private educational institution. Only the US Air Force Academy, the US Naval Academy and the US Naval Postgraduate School have had more.

Dominic A. Antonelli (SB 1989 in aeronautics and astronautics) and Stephen G. Bowen (OCE 1993) will begin a year of training and evaluation at the Johnson Space Center this month, and probably make their first space flights in three to four years.

Mr. Antonelli is a lieutenant in the US Navy who serves as project officer and an F/A&endash;18 weapons test pilot with the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake, CA. Mr. Bowen is a lieutenant commander in the US Navy and currently serves as the executive officer aboard the submarine USS Virginia based in Groton, CT.

MIT's astronaut alumni/ae will figure prominently in key space missions this fall. In early October, Pamela A. Melroy (SM 1984 in earth, atmosphere and planetary sciences) will become the first MIT alumna to pilot a space shuttle when she takes the Discovery on the 100th space shuttle mission. Only two other women have piloted American spacecraft.

About a month later, William M. Shepherd (SM, OCE 1978) will be commander of the first crew to live on the International Space Station. He will be launched aboard a Soyuz rocket from Kazakhstan on October 30 with two Russian crewmates. The three will live on the space station until February 2001.

MIT graduates from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (aero/astro) made up four of the 12 astronauts who walked on the moon during the Apollo program: Buzz Aldrin (ScD 1963), Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell (ScD 1964), Apollo 15 astronaut David R. Scott (SM, EAA 1962) and Apollo 16 astronaut Charles M. Duke, Jr. (SM 1964).

Mr. Scott was actually the first MIT alumnus to fly in space. In 1966 he piloted the Gemini 8, which completed the first successful docking of two spacecraft in orbit. Hours later, he and command pilot Neil Armstrong became the first crew to execute an emergency return from space. They successfully stabilized the Gemini 8 spacecraft after a short circuit in a thruster caused Gemini 8 to spin out of control.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 9, 2000.

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