NASA Astronaut Steven R. Nagel, N5RAW, SK
Astronaut and Space Shuttle veteran Steven Nagel, N5RAW, of Houston, Texas, died August 21. He was 67. In April 1991, Nagel was the commander of the first all-ham Space Shuttle crew aboard Atlantis with Kenneth Cameron, KB5AWP; Jay Apt, N5QWL; Linda Godwin, N5RAX — whom he later married — and Jerry Ross, N5SCW, during the SAREX (Shuttle Amateur Radio EXperiment) program, the forerunner to ARISS. In all, Nagel flew on four Shuttle missions in the 1980s and 1990s.
Nagel joined the Astronaut Corps in 1979 and was the pilot on the last successful mission of Challenger in the 1980s, the only time eight people were launched into space aboard the same spacecraft. Following the Challenger disaster in January 1986 that killed seven astronauts, Nagel was part of the effort to develop a crew escape mechanism.
“This was my best time at NASA, actually,” Nagel once said in an interview for the space agency. "Nothing I ever did was more fulfilling than that 2 years, to be honest, even flying.” Nagel logged 723 hours in space.
One of his last public appearances was at the 2013 ARRL Midwest Division Convention in Lebanon, Missouri, where he spoke to nearly 300 students at Lebanon schools, did a presentation about the first half- century of spaceflight, and took part in a youth forum with Carole Perry, WB2MGP.
Nagel retired from the Air Force and the Astronaut Office in 1995 and went to work for Johnson Space Center in Houston. A year later, he transferred to NASA's Aircraft Operations Division as a research pilot. He retired from NASA in 2011 and joined the faculty of the University of Missouri at Columbia.
Survivors include Godwin and their two daughters. — Thanks to NASA, NPR, ARRL Midwest Division Newsletter