Space exploration

These alumni are recognized for their work in space exploration.

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Robert E. "Bob" Castle Jr.

Robert E. "Bob" Castle Jr. (electrical engineering 1976; M.S. 1978) was a flight director in Mission Control at NASA’s Johnson Space Center from 1988 to 2003. He directed more than 25 space shuttle missions either as the flight director or the mission operations director, including the lead work on the first space shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Mir space station and the first shuttle mission to the International Space Station (ISS). He led preparations for the space shuttle mission "5A" that carried the U.S. laboratory module Destiny into orbit in 2001. NASA presented him with its Stellar Award for his outstanding leadership in the development of the flight control team operations concept and Russian interfaces to support the ISS.

Roger K. Crouch

Roger K. Crouch (M.S. physics 1968; Ph.D. 1971) twice served as the scientific astronaut with the Columbia space shuttle in 1997. Now he is the lead scientist for the NASA office that selects and funds the scientific experiments on the shuttles and on the International Space Station. On one mission, he carried a Virginia Tech banner into space.

Floyd Bennett

Floyd Bennett (aerospace engineering 1954) was chief of the landing analysis branch of the Manned Spacecraft Center. He designed the landing trajectory for the Apollo 15 moon expedition of July 1970, and a hill on the moon was named for him in recognition of his work. Bennett Hill is a high point in the Hadley-Apennine descent area that was used as a landmark for the landing module Falcon.

John B. "Jack" McKay

John B. "Jack" McKay (aerospace engineering 1946) was one of the first seven pilots selected to fly the X-15 for NASA. He achieved astronaut status for taking it to an altitude of 56 miles and a speed of 398 mph. In 1995, George Allen, then the governor of Virginia, declared a John B. McKay Day in honor of his contributions to the space industry.

Christopher C. Kraft Jr.

Christopher C. Kraft Jr. (aerospace engineering 1945) did much of the pioneering work for the country’s manned space program. As director of flight operations at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston, Texas, he was responsible for landing men on the moon and returning them safely to Earth. In 1972, he became director of the center, later renamed the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center. He has been called "a true pioneer in all of the United States manned programs for exploring the vast reaches of space."