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Former Astronaut Scott Altman Visits WVRTC

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By Mike Atkinson (DA Online)

Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, February 15, 2012 00:02

Former Astronaut Scott Altman spoke about his career in space at the West Virginia University National Research Center for Coal and Energy Tuesday in the first public event hosted by the newly named Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources.

Altman received a bachelor of science in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Illinois in 1981, and a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1990.

Altman said he initially wanted to be a pilot in the United States Air Force, but was turned down because he was above the height restrictions for the jets.

He later applied to the United States Navy, which has less stringent height restrictions and was accepted as a pilot.

“Sometimes when we’re chasing our dreams we hit a road block, but we find there are other ways to get where we’re going,” Altman said.

He was commissioned as an Ensign in the United States Navy in 1981 and received his Navy wings of gold in 1983.

Altman said during his career he flew the stunt plane for the movie “Top Gun” and flew Tom Cruise in his plane.

“It was a great career flying out there,” Altman said.

In 1992, he worked as a strike leader in Iraq during Operation Northern Iraq and has logged more than 7,000 flight hours in more than 40 types of aircrafts.

He applied to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1992, where he was initially turned down before he was accepted into NASA three years later.

“Don’t give up after the first time. I had learned that lesson already,” he said.

Altman boarded four different space missions. He was the pilot on STS-90 in 1998 and STS-106 in 2000. He served as the Mission Commander on STS-109 in 2002 and STS-125 in 2009.

“That’s the accumulation of a lot of hard work when you can be in space looking back at Earth,” Altman said.

Altman said he worked during his assigned missions repairing the Hubble Space Telescope, one of the largest and most versatile space telescopes operated by the Space Telescope Science Institute.

“We fixed things that were broken, as well as added new technology,” he said. “Basically we reinvented the telescope every time.”

Altman retired from NASA in 2010 to join ASRC Research and Technology Solutions in Greenbelt, Maryland as vice president of research and planning. He has logged more than 51 days in space during his career.

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