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Don Peterson '55, First Shuttle Spacewalker, Dies Aged 84 PDF Print E-mail

Veteran astronaut Don Peterson, who flew aboard STS-6, the maiden voyage of orbiter Challenger, performed the first-ever spacewalk from the shuttle airlock and might—had the hands of fate turned differently—have launched to the Air Force’s classified Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL), died Sunday (27 May). He was 84. Coming only days after the passing of Apollo Moonwalker and Skylab veteran Alan Bean, Peterson’s death deprives the world of yet another member of the “old guard” of pioneering U.S. astronauts. “So sad to report that we have lost another member of the astronaut family,” the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) noted Monday on its Facebook page. “Fair skies and tailwinds, Don.”

Donald Herod Peterson was born in Winona, Miss., on 22 October 1933, and grew up loving adventure stories and science fiction. His next-door neighbor, Joe Glenn, a Second World War II fighter ace and veteran pilot of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, offered Peterson his first glimpse of the aviation world. “He was kind of a town hero,” Peterson later recalled in his NASA oral history. “Since he lived next door, I could go visit with him and he used to talk about flying.” At high school, the young boy gravitated towards mathematics and physics and entered the Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., to study science. He earned his degree in 1955 and spent the next four years as an instructor pilot in the Air Training Command, performing formation and instrument flying and aerobatics. Years later, Peterson credited those years as pivotal in enabling him to enter test-pilot school.


 COL Donald H. Peterson USAF Eulogy Page


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