During his 247 orbits of the Earth, WWU’s George “Pinky” Nelson racked up a few firsts.
Nelson was the first astronaut to repair a satellite in orbit, and he was the first – and only – American astronaut allowed to try out a Russian jetpack.
Now, he’s the first WWU faculty member in NASA’s Astronaut Hall of Fame. His May induction put him alongside legends such as John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Alan Shepard and Sally Ride.
“It’s a special honor because the voting is done by our peers, the astronauts who have already been inducted,” Nelson says. “We are being recognized not only for our work in space, but just as much for the things we did on the ground to support the program. It’s very gratifying.”
Nelson served as a mission specialist on three Space Shuttle flights, including the first mission after the Challenger disaster. He is also one of only four Space Shuttle astronauts to fly untethered in space using NASA’s Manned Maneuvering Unit.
These days, Nelson is Earth-bound, directing Western’s highly regarded Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Program. His work with the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership has helped boost science test scores in the state, enabling the next generation of astronauts to soar to new heights.