NASA selects astronauts from a diverse pool of applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds from scientists to pilots. From the thousands of applications received, only a few are chosen to be a member of the elite NASA Astronaut Corps. Each day at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, visitors get the rare opportunity to meet veteran NASA astronauts.
You may meet the Astronaut of the Day at any of the following opportunities. See the Daily Schedule for times when you arrive.
John Blaha has flown on a remarkable number of space flights (five to be exact) since he was selected to be an astronaut in 1980. Some highlights include Commanding 2 missions, Commanding the most successful Spacelab flight, and a four-month-long stay at the Russian space station Mir.
Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, Blaha attended the United States Air Force Academy and Purdue University where he earned a bachelor’s in engineering science and a master’s in astronautical engineering, respectively.
Blaha’s time in the Air Force is where he really made a name for himself. After receiving his pilot wings in 1967, he flew 361 combat missions in Vietnam. He then went to the United Kingdom and served as a test pilot with the Royal Air Force. Upon return to America, he worked for the Assistant Chief of Staff at the Pentagon and presented F-15 and F-16 studies to congressional staffs and senior Air Force leadership.
NASA was his next destination. Blaha was the chairman, NASA Space Flight Safety Panel and a member of the NASA Space Shuttle Improvement Panel. His first flight was in 1989, nine years after he joined the Astronaut Corps. He has completed five space missions for a total of 161 days in space. In his down-to-Earth time, he led NASA’s contingency abort development in case of shuttle main engine failures during the launch phase. These procedures greatly increased the chance of survival for astronauts onboard.
In 1997, Blaha retired from NASA and returned to San Antonio, Texas. In 2008, John Blaha was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.