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'Nod' of approval: JetHawks baseball team honoring astronaut with bobblehead



The JetHawks' Jerry Ross bobblehead depicts the record-setting astronaut flying a B-1 aircraft. A thousand of the bobbleheads will be given away at the team's Aug. 9 baseball game. (JetHawks)
August 5, 2015

— Astronaut Jerry Ross, who shares the world record for the most missions into outer space, has been decorated with military and NASA medals, enshrined into a hall of fame and awarded an honorary doctorate. But the accolade he is set to receive Sunday (August 9) may be a nod above them all.

For Ross is about to be immortalized as a bobblehead.

"I am thrilled about it," Ross told collectSPACE. "I never had a bobblehead before."

The honor comes from the Lancaster JetHawks, the Minor League Baseball team located in southern California near Edwards Air Force Base, NASA's Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center and the Mojave Air and Space Port. On Sunday, the team will celebrate its 11th annual Aerospace Appreciation Night.

"We have been working with NASA and Edwards Air Force Base and the local aerospace community for some time to honor local aerospace legends here at the ballpark," said Will Thornhill, the general manager of the JetHawks, in an interview with collectSPACE. "We've had guys like Buzz Aldrin, Fred Haise and Joe Engle, and some of these have had a huge impact to the aerospace community and to our local community."


Jerry Ross poses for a NASA official portrait wearing the mission patches from his record seven spaceflights. (NASA)

The JetHawks consulted with NASA as to who honor next and Ross immediately came to mind.

"He's done so much for the aerospace community and he was stationed out here at Edwards Air Force Base for a little while, so he has a local tie-in as well," Thornhill said. "So after looking up some of his accomplishments, it was a no-brainer type of situation to bring Jerry in and have him be our honoree this year."

Ross will be honored on the field and throw the ceremonial first pitch before Sunday's game against the High Desert Mavericks of Adelanto, California. His bobblehead, which will be given away to the first 1,000 fans through the gates at the JetHawks' stadium The Hangar, recognizes both his NASA record and his time at Edwards flying the Lancer, a supersonic variable-sweep wing bomber.

"They wanted to combine the B-1, which I had done flight testing on out at Edwards Air Force Base, with my space career," Ross said, describing the bobblehead.

"I told them it does not look anything like me — but that's okay," he said laughing.


On board the International Space Station in 2002, astronaut Jerry Ross displays the mission patches for his seven flights. (NASA)

The bobblehead's base is adorned with the NASA mission patches for Ross' seven shuttle flights: STS-61B in 1985, STS-27 in 1988, STS-37 in 1991, STS-55 in 1993, STS-74 in 1995, STS-88 in 1998 and STS-110 in 2002. In total, he logged about 1,400 hours off the planet, including almost 60 hours conducting nine spacewalks, while deploying an observatory, working at two space stations and serving on a still-classified defense mission.

"It is a perfect display of the B-1 and his mission insignias on the base, and with Jerry kind of popping out of the B-1," Thornhill said.

Fifty lucky fans will be selected to have their bobblehead signed by Ross and have their photo taken with him.

"We'd like Jerry to be able to enjoy the game. If we let him sign all 1,000, he'd be stuck there for a couple of hours," explained Thornhill.

Enjoying the game shouldn't be a problem for Ross.


Astronauts Gordon Fullerton in 2004 and Fred Haise in 2011 with their JetHawks bobbleheads. Also pictured: the team's 2007 Buzz Aldrin bobblehead honoring the moonwalker. (NASA/JetHawks)

"I have always been very close to baseball," he remarked. "I played baseball as a kid. At one time, I wanted to be a major league baseball player, but I found that you need to have talent, so that kind of went by the boards."

"I am right now in the middle of trying to visit every major league baseball park and I just hit three in the past week, so I am up to 21," Ross added.

In addition to Ross and Aldrin, Haise and Engle, others who have been honored with JetHawks' bobbleheads have included supersonic pilot Chuck Yeager, prolific aerospace designer Burt Rutan, X-15 rocketplane pilots Bill Dana and Pete Knight, and astronauts Gordon Fullerton and Vance Brand. The team's 2010 bobblehead of shuttle commander Robert "Hoot" Gibson was voted Minor League Baseball's giveaway of the year.


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Jerry Ross' seven spaceflights

Jerry Ross was the first NASA astronaut to leave Earth for space seven times.

  1. STS-61B

    : Launched at night on Nov. 26, 1985. Deployed three communications satellites and operated numerous experiments inside the space shuttle Atlantis. Ross conducted two six-hour spacewalks to demonstrate space station construction techniques.

  2. STS-27

    : Atlantis launched Dec. 2, 1988. Carried a Department of Defense classified payload as well secondary payloads.

  3. STS-37

    : Atlantis launched April 5, 1991. Deployed the 35,000 pound Compton Gamma Ray Observatory, the heaviest civilian satellite ever lofted by a space shuttle and the second of the "great observatories." Ross performed two spacewalks to deploy the observatory's obstructed antenna and test EVA hardware.

  4. STS-55

    : Space shuttle Columbia launched April 26, 1993. German sponsored Spacelab D-2 science mission to investigate life sciences, material sciences, physics, robotics, astronomy and the Earth and its atmosphere.

  5. STS-74

    : NASA's second shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian station Mir. Launched Nov. 12, 1995, attached a permanent docking module to Mir and transferred 3,000 pounds of supplies between Atlantis and the outpost.

  6. STS-88

    : Endeavour launched Dec. 4, 1998 on the first ISS assembly mission. The U.S. Unity module was mated to the orbiting Russian Zarya module. Ross performed three spacewalks to attach tools and hardware to the exterior of the core modules of the International Space Station.

  7. STS-110

    : Atlantis launched April 8, 2002 on the 13th space shuttle mission to visit the ISS. The first mission in the final phase of the ISS assembly included the delivery of the S0 (S-Zero) Truss and the first use of the station's robotic arm to maneuver spacewalkers. Ross performed his final two spacewalks.

Total time in space:

58 days, 52 minutes

Number of spacewalks:

9

Time spacewalking:

58 hours, 32 mins.