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.
Norman E. Thagard, M.D., served as mission specialist four times for NASA’s Space Shuttle Program and was the first American to occupy Russia’s Mir space station.
A native Floridian, Thagard received degrees from Florida State and also earned a degree from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School. He became a naval aviator with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and flew combat missions in Vietnam. He earned his medical degree and was interning at the Medical University of South Carolina when he was selected by NASA for astronaut training in 1978.
Thagard flew twice on space shuttle Challenger, STS-7 in 1983 and STS-51-B in 1985. Thagard used his medical skills to collect data on physiological changes associated with astronaut adaptation to weightlessness. He was a crew member on space shuttle Atlantis in 1989, for STS-30 where the crew deployed the Magellan Venus spacecraft to map that planet’s surface with radar instruments. Thagard’s final space shuttle flight was aboard Discovery in 1992 as payload commander.
In 1995, Thagard was the first American astronaut to blast off in a Soyuz spacecraft from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome for a flight to the Mir space station. Following this flight, Thagard resigned from NASA to teach at Florida State University. Currently, he is an Associate Dean of the FAMU-FSC College of Engineering. Norman Thagard was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 1, 2004.