NASA test pilot and later astronaut Col. C. Gordon Fullerton has passed away at the age of 76. Fullerton was a key member of the test pilot cadre who tested out the approach and landing aerodynamics using the Space Shuttle gliding prototype, Enterprise, during 1977. Fullerton would go on to fly the Space Shuttle into orbit both as as pilot (Columbia STS-3) and Commander (Challenger STS-51F). Fullerton showed his worth as a pilot commander when he had to cope with a main engine shutdown (one of three) nearly six minutes into the flight STS-51F (carrying SPACELAB 2) on 29 July 1985. The mission made it into orbit albeit not with the parameters that had been planned.
Fullerton’s involvement in space begain in 1965 when he became involved as a US Air Force test pilot with Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) programme which was eventually cancelled in 1969. Fullerton subsequently joined NASA and became a back up astronaut for the Apollo missions. Gordon Fullerton retired as an active astronaut in 1986 and, having left the US Air Force in 1988, he retired fully from NASA in 2007. We give our condolences to his friends and family.