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  My father: Test Pilot Alternate and NASA

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Author Topic:   My father: Test Pilot Alternate and NASA
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Posts: 2
From: Colorado Springs
Registered: Dec 2006

posted 01-01-2007 11:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for blkforest   Click Here to Email blkforest     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
What did it mean to be chosen a "Navy Test Pilot Alternate" in 1962?

Recently, I received the U.S Navy Accident Report on the 1967 death of my father (Lt. Cmdr. James F. Peterson, USN) and also a copy of his Military Service Record, for the first time.

My father died active duty on Aug. 16, 1967 in a jet crash (acting as the instructor pilot flying a FT-9j Cougar) Kingsville NAS, Texas. According to words in the Navy Accident report, it states (my father Lt. James F. Peterson, USN) applied to the "NASA Astronaut Program and was accepted, except for the fact that he was missing the required jet hours" - but now I see correspondence to the Sec. Navy and NASA stating he has now met the "Required Jet Hours." All this dates only two weeks before his death in Aug. 1967.

I can see records my father applied at least two times to the NASA Astronaut Program in his short lifetime. I see that the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) endorsed his 1965 "NASA Astronaut Application" while he was stationed overseas (Halifax, N.S) at the time.

Father's History:

  • BS Engineering (1956) full NROTC Scholarship (Univ of Missouri.)
  • Top graduate pilot (Navy Flt School) 1957. First Navy assignment(1958) Patuxent NAS. His Navy record states he was selected a "Test Pilot Alternate" in 1962.
  • Masters in Engineering in 1964 Engineering Instructor: U.S. Naval Academy in 1963-1965
  • Had total 3257 (801 instrument, 289 true instrument) flight hrs.
Additionally I see had classes beyond his Masters in "Celestial Mechanics, Thermodynamics, Non-linear Trajectories & Orbits" and Russian language classes while at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1963-64, too. I also find an old newspaper article where my father attends a "Symposium of the American Rocket Society" (on behalf of the U.S Naval Academy) in 1963.

I do know my father was assigned at Patuxent River, NAS a total of two times in his career. I also know my father shook hands with President John F. Kennedy in 1963 when the President visited the Naval Academy where my father was teaching at the time. My family received a condolence card from President Johnson when my father passed away.

Does anyone remember my father from the USNA while he was an instructor there, or anytime in his career?

Can anyone shed light on this early NASA selection process as it might relate to my father? Were all astronauts chosen into a certain program?


Posts: 2784
From: Titusville, FL USA
Registered: Feb 2005

posted 01-02-2007 07:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KSCartist   Click Here to Email KSCartist     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
While I can't shed any light on the selection process, others here will be able to help you. I did want to write to say that it appeared that your Dad was on the cusp of making it as an astronaut.

It is a tribute to him that he accomplished all that he did. I wish you every success in answering the questions that you asked.

KC Stoever

Posts: 1011
From: Denver, CO USA
Registered: Oct 2002

posted 01-02-2007 11:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for KC Stoever   Click Here to Email KC Stoever     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Welcome to collectSPACE. You have quite a mystery there, compounded by your father's untimely death. Yes, it was a long time ago, but the loss of a dad is the loss of a dad. Please accept my condolences.

Regarding astronaut selection for the mid-1960s, I can't add very much that would help you. Patricia Santy ("Choosing the Right Stuff") has a good scholarly treatment of the psych and biomedical testing for the various astronaut groups across time. But she really doesn't get into the contents of the various service jackets — fitness reports, commendations, number of hours — which requires a different kind of analysis.

A good place to start would be the actual NASA memoranda sent out to the test pilot communities, civilian and military, which would spell out the requirements ca. 1962 or 1967.

Mike Cassutt may be able to help in this regard. And there are few others on the boards here who have done really extensive research and have an excellent understanding of Navy, Air Force, Marine service jackets. They would know what sorts of resumes were in demand.

So good luck and godspeed, as you tackle this interesting story. Your dad sounds like he was a very accomplished and dedicated fellow.

All times are CT (US)

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