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Major John! Chicago-Born Astronaut To Join Hall Of Fame

By Selena Fragassi in News on Feb 17, 2015 9:00PM

Chicagoan John Grunsfeld will be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame this spring.
Photo courtesy of NASA

Yes an Astronaut Hall of Fame exists and come this spring, Highland Park High alum John Grunsfeld will be inducted into the legions of space cadets that already includes Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

According to the official NASA site, Grunsfeld currently lives in Washington, D.C. and assumes the mission of Associate Administrator for the Science Mission Directorate, a role he’s held since 2012. Previously he was the Deputy Director of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore. Grunsfeld has been with NASA since 1992 and in that time he’s collected a mass of intergalactic discoveries, including:

- Five shuttle flights
- Three visits to the Hubble telescope
- Eight spacewalks spent servicing the observatory
- 58 total days in space

Among his flight paths were:
- Endeavor in 1995
- Atlantis in 1997
- Discovery in 1999
- Columbia in 2002
- Atlantis in 2009

Not too shabby for an astronaut. So impressive is his career and service records that President Obama gave him the professional nickname "The Hubble Repairman” in 2009. The two have a linked past, being from the same neighborhood after all— Grunsfeld spent part of his childhood in Hyde Park and returned to his home base in the late ‘80s to earn a master's degree and a doctorate in physics from the University of Chicago. Earlier, Grunsfeld graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a bachelor's degree in physics.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Grunsfeld declared that he would become an astronaut at age six or seven. "My mom [a naturalist at Morton Arboretum and the Botanic Garden] thought it was great because I would probably be inspired to study math and science, but I would never be an astronaut so she didn't have to worry about the risk," Grunsfeld said. "Fortunately, she lived long enough to see me fly in space two times." His wife also works for NASA.

"The biggest honor is to be an astronaut," said Grunsfeld. "It's such a tremendous privilege to be able to represent humankind in our quest to explore space."