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NASA’s Foale, Ochoa welcomed into Astronaut Hall of Fame

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Veteran astronauts Dr. Michael Foale and Dr. Ellen Ochoa have been named to be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in May. Video by Malcolm Denemark

The U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on Friday inducted a pair of veteran astronauts praised for their calm under pressure, trailblazing missions and the examples they set for young people.

Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic woman in space, and Michael Foale, the only American to live on Russia’s Mir station and the International Space Station, were honored in a ceremony beneath the retired shuttle Atlantis at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.

The astronauts flew 10 space missions combined, including one as shuttle crewmates.

Foale, 60, may be best known for the crisis he endured during a five-month stay on Mir in 1997, when a Progress supply ship crashed into the outpost, causing it to lose power, depressurize and begin tumbling.

“That mission I thought was just going to be kind of a ho-hum for me research mission, but it wasn’t,” recalled Foale, a dual U.K.-U.S. citizen. “It became one of the most rewarding experiences in a weird and odd way, even though so much trouble befell that mission.”

Foale worked with ground teams to stabilize the space station and later performed a spacewalk to inspect damage to the Spektr module and a solar panel.

In all, he spent more than a year of his life in orbit during six missions, five launched aboard shuttles from KSC and one on a Russian Soyuz rocket.

Ochoa, the 59-year-old director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, earned a doctorate in electrical engineering from Stanford University before flying four shuttle missions that performed science research and helped assemble the ISS.

Ochoa steered the shuttle’s robotic arm to deploy and capture satellites, install a station truss and maneuver spacewalkers.

She remembered learning early on the two ways astronauts could mess up: No. 1, failing to follow procedures exactly as written, or No. 2, following procedures exactly as written.

“It took me a little while to figure out what I should do with that advice,” Ochoa joked. “In time, and following the example of all my colleagues, I believe I was able to develop the in-depth knowledge and judgment that it was referring to.”

Ochoa, after whom six schools are named, said the biggest role astronauts play “is in inspiring the next generation.”

Selections to the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame are overseen by the KSC-based Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, which will host a fundraising gala Saturday beneath a Saturn V rocket displayed at KSC.

Founded by Mercury astronauts, the foundation has awarded more than $4.5 million in scholarships to nearly 500 college students pursuing degrees in science, technology, math and engineering.

Contact Dean at 321-242-3668 orjdean@floridatoday.com. And follow on Twitter at@flatoday_jdeanand on Facebook atfacebook.com/jamesdeanspace.

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