Shuttle skipper, mountaineering spacewalker going into Hall of Fame

Brian Duffy (left) and Scott Parazynski (right) are the 2016 inductees for the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
Brian Duffy (left) and Scott Parazynski (right) are the 2016 inductees for the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

CAPE CANAVERAL — Commander of the 100th space shuttle flight and a spacewalker who later climbed Mount Everest will be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame at the Kennedy Space Center on Saturday.

Brian Duffy and Scott Parazynski will become members of the Hall after flying a combined 9 space shuttle missions from 1992 through 2007 and both helping to construct the International Space Station. They bring the total number of astronauts inducted in the Hall to 93, which was opened by the Mercury 7 in 1990.

“Being selected to the Hall of Fame is just absolutely beyond belief. I’m incredibly honored to be considered among those who inspired me as a child,” Duffy said.

“Things that you are most passionate about you excel at. I don’t think either of us had any grand aspirations for recognition, it’s just being part of a mission that was larger than life,” Parazynski added.

Duffy's four mission patches.
Duffy’s four mission patches.

A Boston native born in 1953, Duffy graduated from the Air Force Academy and flew F-15s before attending Air Force Test Pilot School. He was selected by NASA as a member of the 1985 class of astronauts.

Duffy flew on the space shuttle four times for 41 days in orbit, traveling 15.9 million miles during 642 orbits, beginning as the pilot of the STS-45 atmospheric research flight on Atlantis in 1992 and Endeavour’s STS-57 mission in 1993 that retrieved a European science satellite.

“Your first spaceflight is very special. You learn so much there, and what I learned in particular was I wanted to go back and do it some more,” Duffy said.

He went on to command Endeavour’s STS-72 flight in 1996 that captured a Japanese satellite for return to Earth and Discovery’s STS-92 in 2000 — the 100th space shuttle mission — that served as an early space station assembly flight to install a truss structure with gyroscopes and communications gear and add another docking port.

Memories from Duffy's four missions.
Memories from Duffy’s four missions.

“The most memorable thing was on my last flight, STS-92, was the rendezvous with no radar,” Duffy said.

In his very last training session in Houston before heading to Florida for launch, the rendezvous instructor wanted to conduct a simulation with the radar failed, but Duffy resisted. Instead, the training run had the radar, lasers and other equipment working normally.

“He said OK, it is up to you, you are the commander,” Duffy said. “So we did that, went to the Cape, eventually launched and the day before the rendezvous the radar failed. We ended up doing a radar-failed rendezvous, which I think might have been the first time that had been done,” Duffy said.

“Coming out of the darkness, the station was supposed to be about 2,000 feet out my window. But there wasn’t anything there. So we had to make a quick decision about what to do, we didn’t even have time to talk to the ground. I started firing the aft jets to change our trajectory so that we could catch up to the station. When that was over, I was very relieved!”

The retired Air Force colonel currently works as a vice president at Orbital ATK.

Parazynski's five mission patches.
Parazynski’s five mission patches.

Parazynski has been on top of the world — both on Earth and in space. The climber became the first astronaut to reach the summit of Mount Everest in 2009, the highest point on Earth, along with other mountains in the Alaska Range, Cascades, Rockies and Andes.

Born in the summer of 1961 in Little Rock, Parazynski went to high school in Iran and Greece before graduating with honors from Stanford Medical School. He was working an emergency doctor when he was selected for the astronaut corps. in 1992.

“I had aspirations to fly at a very early age. I was lucky, my father worked in the Apollo program when I was very young, so I had model rockets and posters on the wall and ambitions to set the first bootprints down on Mars. It didn’t quite work out that way, but it was a wonderful career nonetheless,” Parazynski said.

His maiden spaceflight was aboard Atlantis in 1994 on STS-66, another atmospheric research flight. Afterward, he began training for a long-duration mission to the Russian space station Mir, but got disqualified midway through preparations because he was deemed too tall for the Soyuz spacecraft.

He got to visit Mir, however, and did a spacewalk outside the station as an STS-86 crew member aboard Atlantis in 1997 and flew alongside John Glenn during his return to space in 1998 on STS-95 of Discovery.

“It was a real thrill of a lifetime to fly with my boyhood hero,” Parazynski said.

Memories from Parazynski's five missions.
Memories from Parazynski’s five missions.

Parazynski then served as a spacewalker on two assembly missions to the International Space Station — Endeavour’s STS-100 in 2001 to deliver and construct the Canadian-built robotic arm and Discovery’s STS-120 in 2007 that installed the Harmony module, relocated the Port 6 power truss and performed emergency repairs after one of the solar array blankets ripped.

“The solar array repair on STS-120 was one of those unscripted moments that you never think could happen,” Parazynski said.

“True to NASA form, people working around the clock for 72 hours came up with an absolutely brilliant method cobbling together the Canadrm2 that I’d installed with Chris Hadfield on my prior flight, using that plus the Orbiter Boom Sensor System that we used to inspect the shuttle in the aftermath of the Columbia accident to make sure we hadn’t sustained any critical damage. These two piece parts were never meant to come together in the way we had to use them, creating this 90-foot-long springboard to get a spacewalking astronaut — me — out to the very tip of the station, further than we’d ever ventured before.

“We were going into this very unusual environment, a higher risk environment as well because you couldn’t turn off the solar panel. So this was a spacewalk I went into with a little bit more trepidation and uncertainty whether or not we’d get the job done.”

But the emergency EVA was a full success as Parazynski cut away a snarled guide wire on the solar wing and installed five suture-like “cufflinks” to hold the torn blanket together. It allowed the array to fully deploy and provide the needed power for continued construction missions.

“I certainly consider that solar array repair activity as my best day on the job ever,” he says.

Parazynski traveled 23 million miles during 902 orbits of the Earth, logged 58 days in space and conducted seven spacewalks for 47 hours of EVA time.

He now works as the founder and chief technology officer of BlueDot, Inc. that transforms inventions into real companies.

A live webcast of the Astronaut Hall of Fame induction ceremony will begin Saturday at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT). The stream can be viewed in the embed on this page at that time.

See our shuttle mission archive.