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Don Lind, shuttle astronaut whose moon mission was canceled, dies at 92

NASA astronaut Don Lind observes crystals being grown on board the Spacelab 3 science module during space shuttle Challenger's STS-51B mission in 1985.

NASA astronaut Don Lind observes crystals being grown up to speed the Spacelab 3 science module during space shuttle Challenger’s STS-51B mission in 1985. (Image credit: NASA)

Don Lind, a former NASA astronaut who helped plan humanity’s first moonwalk before launching on the area shuttle, has died at age 92.

Lind’s death on Tuesday (opens in new tab) (Aug. 30) was initially reported by the Herald Journal in Logan, Utah.

“Don is really as near to the true ‘Renaissance Man’ Leonardo da Vinci’s ideal of a guy who could do everything and take action well as exists inside our era,” his family wrote within an obituary (opens in new tab) issued on Friday (Sep. 2).

Lind became an astronaut with the “Original Nineteen,” NASA’s fifth band of trainees, selected in 1966. The class included eight astronauts who flew to the moon, including three future Apollo moonwalkers.

“The initial plans were to create 10 landings on the moon, Apollo 11 through Apollo 20, and we were building command modules and Saturn V [rockets] and all of the equipment for 10 landings. Then Washington, within their infinite wisdom, reduced the budget and canceled the final three flights to the moon, and I did so not reach visit the moon,” said Lind in a 2005 NASA oral history (opens in new tab). “That has been an unbelievable professional disappointment. But, you merely gird up your loins and press on, because you have no additional options.”

Related: The Apollo program: How NASA sent astronauts to the moon

Don Lind, wearing a training version of the Apollo spacesuit, tests the Early Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, or EASEP, on a simulated lunar surface in January 1969.

Don Lind, wearing an exercise version of the Apollo spacesuit, tests the first Apollo Scientific Experiments Package, or EASEP, on a simulated lunar surface in January 1969. (Image credit: NASA)

Rather than likely to the moon himself, Lind done planning the lunar surface operations for the astronauts who did. He tested the spacesuits, tools and science packages that the Apollo moonwalkers would use and deploy.

“I don’t say this boasting, but I knew more in what Neil [Armstrong] and Buzz [Aldrin] were likely to do on the initial mission and Pete [Conrad] and Al [Bean] were likely to do on the next mission than they did,” said Lind.

That knowledge landed him a seat in Mission Control through the first two moon landing missions, Apollo 11 and Apollo 12. As a capcom (capsule communicator), Lind was only a radio call away if something went wrong.

“I possibly could simply step of progress, grab the microphone and talk them through the procedures that I had tested,” he said.

Lind’s possiblity to be on the far side of the line came greater than a decade following the last astronaut stepped off the moon.

“I set an archive. Nobody has waited for a spaceflight longer than I’ve. I am hoping nobody ever must do this,” said Lind. “There have been long delays, therefore, yes, it had been 19 years before I got eventually to fly.”

On April 29, 1985, Lind lifted off being an STS-51B mission specialist on the space shuttle Challenger. Considering that two of Lind’s six crewmates were also Apollo-era astronauts, the common age of the crew was 48.6 the oldest for an American space mission.

The mission also marked the next flight of the European-built Spacelab laboratory module and the first ever to carry a complete complement of science experiments like the first animal test subjects.

“We’d two cute little squirrel monkeys and 24 less-than-cute laboratory rats. The squirrel monkeys adapted rapidly,” Lind told the NASA interviewer. “The laboratory rats weren’t quite as savvy because the monkeys. That they had been on vibration tables and acoustical chambers and that type of thing. However they hadn’t learned that would last some time, so when we got [into the module], these were hanging onto the edge of the cage and looking very apprehensive.”

“After concerning the second day, they finally discovered if they’d forget about the screen, they wouldn’t fall, plus they probably enjoyed all of those other mission,” he said.

Related: Space shuttle: The initial reusable spacecraft

Don Lind (at left) with his six space shuttle Challenger STS-51B crewmates Bob Overmyer, Taylor Wang, Norm Thagard, Bill Thornton, Fred Gregory and Lodewijk van den Berg.

Don Lind (at left) along with his six space shuttle Challenger STS-51B crewmates Bob Overmyer, Taylor Wang, Norm Thagard, Bill Thornton, Fred Gregory and Lodewijk van den Berg. (Image credit: NASA)

For himself, he previously no difficulty adjusting alive in microgravity.

“Thoroughly enjoyed it,” said Lind. “It had been an excellent experience.”

Along with conducting the study NASA decided, Lind also proposed and completed their own experiment, taking the initial clear photographs of the aurora borealis (“Northern Lights”) from space. All he needed was a camera that has been already aboard the shuttle and three rolls of film.

“Which means this experiment cost NASA $36, and it’s really the least expensive experiment which has ever gone into space,” Lind said with fun. “We claimed that people could do more science per dollar per pound than anybody else in the area program.”

“We discovered that there surely is a different element of the mechanism that creates the aurora, involving microwaves, that has been not understood before. Therefore the theorists had to include one more aspect in the equation for the creation of the aurora light,” he said.

Lind and his crewmates landed almost exactly weekly once they left Earth. He logged seven days, 8 minutes and 46 seconds on which was his only mission.

Don Leslie Lind was created on, may 18, 1930, in Midvale, Utah. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in physics from the University of Utah in 1953 and signed up for the U.S. Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island.

He served four years on active duty with the U.S. Navy at NORTH PARK and aboard the USS Hancock aircraft carrier, logging a lot more than 4,500 hours of flight time.

After volunteering as a naval aviator to take high-altitude photo emulsions of cosmic rays for the University of California, Berkeley, he enrolled at the institution and earned his doctorate in high energy nuclear physics in 1964. For another 2 yrs until his selection being an astronaut, Lind worked at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland as an area physicist, studying low-energy particles within the Earth’s magnetosphere and interplanetary space.

NASA portrait of astronaut Don Lind when he was assigned to crew of the never-needed Skylab rescue mission.

NASA portrait of astronaut Don Lind when he was assigned to the crew of the never-needed Skylab rescue mission. (Image credit: NASA)

After losing his possiblity to possibly fly to the moon, Lind trained for just two missions to the Skylab orbital workshop, both which were also canceled. Then helped plan the payloads for the first shuttle test flights and helped develop the control system for the remote manipulator system, or Canadarm robotic arm.

Half a year after returning from space, Lind retired from NASA. (He earlier resigned from the Navy with the rank of commander in 1969.)

“I thought, ‘I am to the stage in my own life where if I’m ever likely to shift into academia, I better do it, or I’ll end up being a NASA manager for the others of my entire life,'” said Lind.

He joined the faculty at Utah State University as a professor of physics and astronomy until his retirement in 1995. He and his wife Kathleen devoted their time volunteering for for his or her church.

In 1985, Lind collaborated with Kathleen to create a book, “Don Lind, Mormon Astronaut” (Deseret Book Co.).

For his service to the U.S. space program, Lind was awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1974, and the NASA Space Flight Medal following his flight on Challenger.

Lind is survived by his sister Charlene Lind, by all seven of his children Carol Ann, David, Dawna, Douglas, Kimberly, Lisa and Daniel, 22 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren. He could be preceded in death by his wife, who died on June 12, one grandson, two sisters and both of his parents.

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Robert Pearlman is really a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community specialized in space history with a specific concentrate on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman can be a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of “Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Employed in Space published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the area tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the annals Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of FOR SEVERAL Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted in to the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.

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