Paul Weitz, Commander Of The 1st Flight Of Space Shuttle Challenger, Dead At 85

Paul Weitz, the commander of 1st flight of space shuttle Challenger, is dead at the age of 85-years-old.

Weitz was a retired NASA astronaut who commanded the first flight of the space shuttle Challenger and also piloted the Skylab in the early 1970s.

Laura Cutchens of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation said that Weitz died at his retirement home in Flagstaff, Arizona, on Monday. No cause of death was given.

via CBS News:

A NASA biography says Weitz was among the class of 19 astronauts who were chosen in April 1966. He served as command module pilot on the first crew of the orbiting space laboratory known as Skylab during a 28-day mission in 1973.

Weitz also piloted the first launch of the ill-fated shuttle Challenger in April 1983. The five-day mission took off from the Kennedy space Center in Florida and landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The Challenger was destroyed and seven crew members killed during its 10th launch on January 28, 1986.

In all, he logged 793 hours in space and retired as deputy director of the Johnson Space Center in May 1994.

According to Weitz’s NASA biography, Weitz graduated from Harborcreek High School in Harborcreek, Pennsylvania and received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1954. He then went on to receive a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, in 1964.

Weitz had a decorated NASA career.

During his career at NASA, Weitz was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. He served as pilot on the crew of Skylab-2 (SL-2), which launched on May 25 and ended on June 22, 1973. SL-2 was the first manned Skylab mission, and activated a 28-day flight. In logging 672 hours and 49 minutes aboard the orbital workshop, the crew established what was then a new world record for a single mission. Mr. Weitz also logged 2 hours and 11 minutes in extravehicular activities.

Mr. Weitz was spacecraft commander on the crew of STS-6, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on April 4, 1983. This was the maiden voyage of the Orbiter Challenger. During the mission, the crew conducted numerous experiments in materials processing, recorded lightning activities, deployed IUS/TDRS-A, conducted spectacular extravehicular activity while testing a variety of support systems and equipment in preparation for future space walks, and also carried three “Getaway Specials.” Mission duration was 120 hours before landing Challenger on a concrete runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on April 9, 1983. With the completion of this flight, Paul Weitz logged a total of 793 hours in space.

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