Henry Warren "Hank" Hartsfield
Henry Warren "Hank" Hartsfield, Jr., a Birmingham native, enrolled at Auburn University in the fall of 1950 where he later received his commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). While at Auburn University, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics. Hartsfield later attended Duke University where he began graduate work and where he met Judy, his future wife.
In 1955, Hartsfield entered the U.S. Air Force with one of his assignments, including a tour with the 53rd Tactical Fighter Squadron in Bitburg, Germany. Following this tour, he was selected for the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, where he graduated in 1965. He remained an instructor there until October 1966 when he was selected as a military astronaut on the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) Program. He entered the astronaut ranks as part of the United States Air Force program which would soon be cancelled after NASA’s triumphant moon landing. Hartsfield knew at this point if he wanted to advance in his career he would need to earn a master’s degree. In 1971, he earned his master’s in Engineering Science from the University of Tennessee.
Hartsfield participated in the Apollo program, yet he never flew on an Apollo mission. However, he did have a significant role in the Apollo 16 mission as a member of the support crew. As Capsule Communicator, he spoke with the crew from mission control. Hartsfield served as a support crew member and Capsule Communicator for three of NASA’s Skylab missions. He finally made it to space, along with Ken Mattingly as the mission commander, on the final flight test for Columbia. Hartsfield commanded two shuttle missions: in 1984 on the Discovery’s first flight and in 1985 on the Challenger’s last mission before its tragic explosion in early 1987.
After his final mission to space, Hartsfield began a series of important NASA management jobs including positions within the Space Shuttle Program and the development of the International Space Station. He retired from NASA in 1998 and then worked for Raytheon as the Vice President for Technical Services and General Manager for Aerospace Engineering Services. He retired from Raytheon in 2005. Colonel Henry "Hank" Hartsfield, Jr. died on July 17, 2014 at age 80.
Some of Colonel Hartsfield’s special honors include: Air Force Meritorious Service Medal, General Thomas D. White Space Trophy for 1973 (1974), Alabama Aviation Hall of Fame (1983), Distinguished Civilian Service Award (DOD) (1982), NASA Distinguished Service Medals (1982, 1988), NASA Space Flight Medals (1982, 1984, 1985), NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1988), Honorary Doctor of Science degree from Auburn University (1986), U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame Inductee (2006).