Dale Gardner, shuttle astronaut, dies

Dale GardnerShuttle astronaut Dale Gardner, who flew aboard space shuttle Challenger’s STS-8 mission in 1983 and the STS-51A mission aboard Discovery in 1984, dies unexpectedly. As a Mission Specialist aboard both flights, he participated in the risky task of manually retrieving a wayward satellite that was considered too large a target to risk snagging with the shuttle’s remote manipulator arm on the Discovery mission. Using one of the Manned Maneuvering Units that would fall out of favor during post-Challenger-disaster safety reviews, Gardner manually captured the satellite and helped to berth it in Discovery’s cargo bay (and then held up a “for sale” sign for the camera). Gardner left NASA and returned to the Air Force and then to civilian life following the Challenger disaster, and had recently retired just over a year before his death. He was 65.