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Hall Of Fame


Kaya Tuncer (1937-2012) Kaya Tuncer is the founder of Space Camp Turkey which opened in June 2000. Turkish-American entrepreneur and mega-builder, Tuncer is also the founder and chairman of ESBAS, the company responsible for developing and operating the Aegean Free Zone, Turkey's leading industrial park. Located in Izmir on 550 acres, the Aegean Free Zone started operating in 1990 and currently employs more than 20,000 people. Tuncer also founded the Global Friendship through Space Education Foundation, which has awarded more than 5,300 Space Camp Turkey program scholarships since 2002 to students from 27 different countries.

Samantha Cristoforetti Captain in the Italian Air Force and currently an astronaut with the European Space Agency, Samantha Cristoforetti is a 1995 alumna of Space Camp in Huntsville. Samantha is currently completing her training on International Space Station (ISS) systems, the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, robotics and spacewalks. She is assigned to the ISS Expedition 42/43 crew currently scheduled to launch in December, 2014, to the ISS for a six-month mission. Samantha has logged more than 500 hours flying six types of military aircraft: SF-260, T-37, T-38, MB-339A, MB-339CD and AM-X.

Michelle Ham Former NASA Johnson Space Center employee, Michelle Lucas Ham, is a 1991 and 1994 alumna of Space Camp in Huntsville. While at NASA, Michelle was assigned primarily to the International Space Station program as a flight control Operations Planner and Astronaut Instructor. Michelle is the Founder/President of Higher Orbits, an organization focused on inspiring students through space curriculum in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) subjects.


Stephanie Abrams Atlanta, Georgia BS, Florida State University and University of Florida For self-described science geek and adventure-seeker, Stephanie Abrams, Space Camp was an obvious destination. She was hooked on science before camp and well before attending college, but it would be the devastation of Hurricane Andrew in 1992 that would lead her to a meteorology class at the University of Florida and the true passion of her life…weather. Abrams joined the team at The Weather Channel shortly after college as an on-camera Meteorologist and is now among the most recognized faces on television. Naturally gregarious,

Stephanie is keenly aware of the unique platform she has to influence young people interested in STEM professions. She has artfully combined her passion, personality, and social media savvy to extend both her appeal and reach in making science cool. Stephanie Abrams is known for her fearless approach to life and learning and happily shares her discoveries with the world.

Lara Elisabeth Warren Houston, Texas, Ph.D. University of California Davis “Liz” Warren always knew she wanted to be an astronaut, a dream she pursues to this day. Her hallmark is that she is not just dreaming the dream, she is working it. Already passionate about space and science, Warren took away other critical life skills from Space Camp – leadership and teamwork – and has applied them throughout an already brilliant career. Dr. Warren holds a Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Integrative Physiology and is an expert at NASA Johnson Space Center, where she studies the effects of space flight on the human body. Today, Dr. Warren is the ISS Program Science Communications Lead working to communicate the research accomplishments of the International Space Station. Aside from contributing to the health, safety and comfort of the ISS crew, Warren spends about 100 volunteer hours every year speaking to students and teachers through NASA’s educational outreach efforts. Dr. Warren’s enthusiasm for space exploration is matched only by her devotion to inspiring the students now following her into a career in aerospace.

Edward A. Van Cise Houston, Texas, BS University of Michigan “Right Stuff” recipient Ed Van Cise knew before his trip to Space Camp that NASA would be the where of his future. But it was Apollo 16 Moonwalker Charlie Duke’s presentation at Camp that led him to the how and what. Van Cise left that week knowing that he wanted to be an Aerospace Engineer, and eventually work at Johnson Space Center in Mission Control. And not long after, that is exactly where he was. Van Cise committed to his path and is currently the 78th Flight Director in NASA’s history. Since taking the call sign “Carbon Flight,” Ed has worked as Lead Flight Director for several different aspects of the International Space Station. Edward Van Cise methodically pursued his dream, earning awards and commendations for leadership, as well as respect from his peers. He continues that dream, today, fully dedicated to NASA and the future of human space exploration.

Captain Robert “Hoot” Gibson Murfreesboro, TN BS, California Polytechnic State University Retired U.S. Navy Captain and Space Shuttle Commander, Robert “Hoot” Gibson is an aeronautical engineer, test pilot, astronaut, and world record holder, and among the very best friends of Space Camp and Aviation Challenge. A rare mixture of affability, self-effacing humor, and a little hero swagger, combined with the authenticity that is born of an exceptional life, Hoot is the real deal. Gibson is a veteran of five shuttle missions, a recipient of numerous honors, awards, and decorations including the DOD Distinguished Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and numerous international medals including the Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal, as well as a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame. But, it isn’t Gibson’s resume that lands him in the Space Camp Hall of Fame. Instead it is his genuine, active dedication to its people and programs. Because he happily and effectively endorses Space Camp and Aviation Challenge selflessly offering his time and attention to any and all, Hoot Gibson is chief among our friends.


Dr. Michelle Thaller, Assistant Director of Science for Communications at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Maryland. In her current role, Michelle represents all of NASA’s science themes, from Earth science, the Sun and space weather, solar system exploration, all the way out to cosmology and the deep universe. Dr. Thaller attended Space Camp in the early 1980’s. She’s being inducted into the Space Camp Alumnus category.

Dr. Valerie Meyers, is a board certified toxicologist in the Space Life Science Directorate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She studied under Dr. Terry Bray in the Center for Biophysical Sciences and Engineering where she helped prepare the dynamically controlled protein crystal growth experiment for flight on STS-105. Dr. Meyers graduated from the lab of Dr. Jay McDonald, where she studied the effects of modeled microgravity on bone-forming precursor cells. Dr. Meyers both attended Space Camp in the early 90's and later worked as a crew trainer prior to completing her education and moving forward with her career. She’s being inducted into the Former Staff category.

Lieutenant Colonel William Burke Hare III USAF, Chief of Operations, Flight Test Execution Directorate, Missile Defense Agency, Redstone Arsenal, Alabama. In his current position, Lt Col Hare leads 100+ personnel in the day to day operations of a Joint Service Test Management and Execution Directorate. His Directorate is responsible for the system level flight testing of the US Ballistic Missile Defense System. A US Air Force Space and Missile Operations Officer, Lt Col Hare has operations experience with the Global Positioning System (GPS) and the Minuteman III Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) weapon system. Lt Col Hare has additional Operations, Maintenance and Staff Experience at Unit, Major Command and Joint Service levels. Lt Col Hare attended Space Camp in the 1980’s and worked at Aviation Challenge and Space Camp as a young adult. He left Aviation Challenge upon being called to active duty in the Air Force where he continues to make his contributions to our country. He’s being inducted into the Space Camp Alumnus Category.


Francis French Oceanside, California BA, University of North London, England PGCE, Brunel University Although originally from Manchester England, Francis French has spent more than a decade working to make science and technology accessible and understandable to family audiences in museums and science centers here in the United States. Mr. French, a former SPACE ACADEMY LEVEL II trainee, showed an early and significant interest in space and space history. So, it is no surprise that his professional endeavors have been primarily focused on Spaceflight and Astronomy. His work has included regular collaborations with NASA, retired astronauts, notable astronomers, and astronomical observatories around the world. Having worked as the Director of Events with Sally Ride Science and Director of Education for the San Diego Air & Space Museum, it is no wonder that Mr. French is a sought-after contributor of articles to aerospace magazines primarily in the area of manned spaceflight history. In addition to being the co-author of both Into that Silent Sea and In the Shadow of the Moon, Mr. French also designed a banner that flew aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia on its final successful mission. As a SPACE ACADEMY graduate, Francis French has remained true to his first love and continues to pursue his passion to the benefit of thousands of lifelong learners.

MAJ. J. David Hnyda, US Army Snellville, Georgia BS, Auburn University Eagle Scout and former SPACE CAMP® trainee and crew trainer, David Hnyda, was part of the SPACE CAMP family for more than a decade. Although that time included him having the distinction of being a Right Stuff winner as both trainee and crew trainer, his life since SPACE CAMP is surely the envy of every AVIATION CHALLENGE® trainee that has ever attended. While earning his degree in Mechanical Engineering, Major Hnyda was in Army ROTC. He began early making his mark by completing the Army’s Airborne, Air Assault, and Northern Warfare Schools. Following graduation, Major Hnyda joined the Air Calvary flying the OH-58D helicopter. He has spent the last decade and more than 1,150 combat hours serving in support of the Iraq War as an Air Mission Commander. Most recently, Major Hnyda was selected as a member of Class 139 at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School. U.S. Army Major David Hnyda has a long history of distinguishing himself at every turn and is living proof that dreams are made of vision, dedication and hard work.

Danny R. Jaques Ignacio, Colorado BS, Fort Lewis College Danny Jaques has been a science teacher at Ignacio Junior High School for nearly twenty-five years. For more than half of those years, he has been a veritable dynamo and perhaps SPACE CAMP's most effective un-official ambassador. A life-long resident of Colorado, Danny has worked tirelessly to ensure that the children in that area are not only aware of SPACE CAMP - but have the opportunity to take advantage of the educational opportunities it offers. As a Life Member of the National Science Teacher Association, President of the Ignacio Community Historical Society, member of the Mars Society, and Teacher Liaison Officer for the U.S. Space Foundation, Danny somehow found time to establish the Jaquez Rocket Ranch and Ignacio Space Camp. Danny's organization has, over the years, helped literally hundreds of students attend SPACE CAMP. His natural optimism, enthusiasm and utter "joie de vive" make Danny a magnet for anyone that shares an interest in space and aviation. He is a true friend to SPACE CAMP and to all the young people whose lives are touched by his irrepressible spirit.

Andrea M. Hanson, PhD Lake Park, Minnesota BS, University of North Dakota; MS University of Colorado; Ph.D., University of Colorado, Boulder To say that former ADVANCED SPACE ACADEMY® crew trainer, Andrea Hanson, has been persistent in pursuing her interest in Science and Engineering may be the greatest of understatements. Although Dr. Hanson’s enthusiasm for Space Life Science began during her freshman year at college, she credits her time spent as an instructor at SPACE CAMP as the launch pad for her research career in that field. Following an internship with Boeing Satellite Systems, Dr. Hanson worked as a graduate student with BioServe Space Technologies at the University of Colorado. It was here that she realized the dream of so many trainees, when five years of research culminated in a space shuttle experiment that flew aboard STS-118 in August of 2007. Today, Dr. Hanson continues her relentless pursuit as a post-doctoral research scientist and engineer in the Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her primary efforts are focused on developing technology to monitor musculoskeletal health in astronauts during long-duration space missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Dr. Hanson is a walking testament to what is produced at the fantastic intersection of drive, determination and passion and is a role model for anyone with a dream.


Jim Allan Austin, Texas BS, M.Ed., Ph.D., University of Texas, Austin As the accessibility coordinator at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Jim Allan may be custom made to be the wizard behind the curtain of SPACE CAMP® for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCI-VIS). He has served in that capacity for almost 20 years. In addition to maintaining the SCI-VIS website and coordinating the attendance of more than 200 blind and visually impaired students to SPACE CAMP, Jim serves as the technical expert for the program. Jim’s expertise supported SPACE CAMP’s development of mission software usable by blind and visually impaired students. It is no wonder that Jim adds the SPACE CAMP Hall of Fame honor to the other state, national and international honors he has received for his significant contributions to the visually impaired community and a more accessible world.

SGM Jerry Gleason, Ret. Peoria, Illinois Both legend and mentor to an entire generation of AVIATION CHALLENGE trainees and staff members, Retired U.S. Army Veteran, Sergeant Major Gleason is part of the reason AVIATION CHALLENGE enjoys such a high number of repeat trainees. Having proudly served his country for 30 years, he has spent his retirement serving the USSRC as an employee and as a volunteer. A highly-decorated combat veteran and survival expert, SGM Gleason is the author of the AVIATION CHALLENGE Land Survival training and has inspired more than a few young men and women to follow their dreams of pursuing a military career. As a 4-time Bronze Star recipient, 3-time Purple Heart recipient, and a 2-time Meritorious Service Medal recipient, SGM is more than merely authentic. To those who proudly wear the AVIATION CHALLENGE wings, SGM Jerry Gleason is the bona fide, genuine article.

Robert Pearlman Houston, Texas (Hometown: West Orange, New Jersey) University of Maryland, College Park An accomplished journalist, sought-after space history expert and respected appraiser of space memorabilia, Robert Pearlman was one of the first to recognize the Internet as a means of promoting space exploration. A six-time SPACE CAMP graduate that has successfully turned his passion into his profession, Pearlman has spent the past decade developing into the leading online publication, resource site, and community for space history enthusiasts. Prior to his current role as collectSPACE editor, Pearlman created and worked on numerous other websites, including the award-winning Ask An Astronaut. A board member and advisor to more foundations and boards dedicated to space than one might imagine even exist, Robert Pearlman possesses a rare combination of zeal, expertise and vision and continues to be an avid supporter and effective advocate of the space program.


Oscar Holderer One of the original members of the von Braun Rocket Team, Holderer not only helped put men on the moon but also made it possible for thousands of would-be astronauts to learn all about space travel. His realistic design of such SPACE CAMP® mainstays as the Multi-Axis Trainer, the 5DF, and the 1/6th gravity trainer have allowed more than half a million youngsters over two decades to experience astronaut training on equipment modeled after actual NASA training equipment. Holderer is also responsible for helping ensure that millions of Alabama visitors traveling I-65 are greeted by a Saturn IB Rocket proudly proclaiming Alabama’s place in history as the Birthplace of Manned Space Flight.

Marlenn Maicki West Bloomfield, Michigan BS – Wayne State University / MAT – Oakland University A devoted career educator, Mrs. Maicki does more than teach...she inspires. As a fifth grade science teacher at Detroit’s Country Day School, she is legendary for her insistence that science be learned not from a text book, but by doing, seeing, and experiencing. 2009 marked 22 consecutive years that Mrs. Maicki has led her entire 5th grade class – and most of their parents - on an annual trek to SPACE CAMP. With “the heart of a child and the creativity and drive of an award-winning teacher,” she has inspired literally thousands of students to dream big and to work to make those dreams a reality.

Lisa DeVries Cocoa, Florida BS, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University / MS, Columbia Southern University As a child, she put glow-in-the-dark stars on her ceiling and dreamed of working in the space program. As a teenager, she attended SPACE ACADEMY® and began a hot pursuit of her childhood dream. As a young adult, she continued that pursuit and shared her love of space as an Advanced Space Academy® crew trainer. Today, Lisa DeVries is a wife and mother of two and a member of Operations Safety at Kennedy Space Center. She has realized the dream…she has been among the last to leave the launch pad prior to each shuttle mission – and one of the first on the runway upon the shuttle’s return. As the voice that gives the safety “go-no go” for Launch Control, DeVries is living her dream.

Vincent Vazzo Salem, Ohio BS, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign An 8-time trainee, former crew trainer, and current volunteer, Vincent Vazzo could have been inducted into the Hall of Fame in any of the three nominee categories. Vincent, the brain and energy behind the original, unofficial, SPACE CAMP social network,, never veered from the path to making the space program his career. Today, Vincent works for United Space Alliance as part of the Imagery Analysis Team at the Marshall Space Flight Center. His team provides NASA the imagery and communications tools to gather and organize information about liftoff debris enabling better and faster assessments of potential damage during a mission to ensure the safety of both craft and crew.

Capt. Phillip A. "Ritz" Smith Tampa, Florida BS, U.S. Air Force Academy Although an alumnus of SPACE CAMP, Florida, and SPACE ACADEMY, USSRC, Phillip Smith found his calling somewhere between Earth and space. The would-be astronaut pursued a career in military aviation and landed what may be the dream job of many a young man or woman. Capt. Smith is an F-15E pilot stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina. After serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom – and not satisfied with just any dream job, Capt. Smith secured perhaps the ultimate dream job. He is the Air Combat Command Strike Eagle Demonstration Team pilot and Commander spending his days showcasing America’s F-15E Strike Eagle to more than seven million people across the world. No doubt about the accomplishments of Captain Phillip A. “Ritz” Smith as he is only the second Air Force pilot ever chosen to be a demo pilot for this amazing machine.

Josh Whitfield Waterford, California Josh Whitfield was an all-American boy growing up playing football, baseball and golf, but it would be his long held fascination for the military and aviation that led him to become an AVIATION CHALLENGE trainee – 13 times. As a trainee, Josh earned the coveted Right Stuff Award 5 times and twice won the Top Gun Award. However, it is Army Specialist Whitfield’s valor and service that have earned him his spot in the Hall of Fame. As a gunner on one of the Army’s Stryker armored combat vehicles, Josh was twice injured during firefights to liberate the area of Hadar in the Iraq War. Today, Josh has come back home to Aviation Challenge as a crew trainer. He returns as a Bronze Star recipient… and a true American Hero.


Dr. Wernher von Braun Berlin, Germany Technical University of Berlin, Charlottenburg Inspired by the Science Fiction of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, Dr. Wernher von Braun studied the works of German Rocketeer, Herman Oberth, to make science fact out of science fiction. Dr. von Braun was the leader of the German Rocket Team that was brought to America following WWII and directed the efforts of the scientists and engineers that put mankind on the moon forever marking his spot in world history as the Father of Manned Space Flight. The original Director of NASA and the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center, Dr. von Braun knew that America and the world would need a new generation of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers to ensure the continuation of his dream of manned travel beyond the moon. It was this knowledge along with Dr. von Braun’s rare combination of scientific genius, marketing savvy, and personal charisma that allowed him to envision and plant the seed that would grow into the world’s most recognized museum education program – SPACE CAMP®.

Edward O. Buckbee Huntsville, Alabama P.I. Reed School of Journalism, West Virginia University Selected by Wernher von Braun in 1970 to serve as the first ever Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center®, former NASA Public Affairs Officer, Edward O. Buckbee, has forever changed the face of Museum Education. In addition to assembling and managing the world’s largest space history museum and rocket collection, Buckbee brought to life von Braun’s vision by founding SPACE CAMP and later its sister program, AVIATION CHALLENGE®. Buckbee has spent more than 40 years championing all things space. Since retiring from the USSRC in 1994, Buckbee has continued that effort as an author, lecturer, and full-time space advocate working tirelessly to increase the public’s understanding of America’s role in the development of technology.

Georg von Tiesenhausen Riga, Latvia Hamburg University Born to German-Scottish parents, Dr. Georg von Tiesenhausen was more than a witness to history…he was one of its designers. Dr. von Tiesenhausen joined von Braun’s Rocket Team in 1943 and immediately became one of its critical parts. He continued that role at NASA and, more than 20 years after his retirement, NASA still uses many of the components he designed. However, it is what he’s done since his retirement that has made him one of the most cherished and integral parts of SPACE CAMP – past and present. Dr. von T, as he is affectionately known to thousands of students from around the world, has spent more than 22 consecutive years volunteering as a guest lecturer at SPACE CAMP. A gifted teacher, Dr. von T is able to discuss such subjects as the time-space continuum so that even the youngest student understands and appreciates the lesson. SPACE CAMP has no greater friend than Dr. Georg von Tiesenhausen.

Dan Oates Romney, West Virginia BS, Fairmont State College / M.Ed, University of Pittsburgh As the heart, soul, and mind of SPACE CAMP for Interested Visually Impaired Students (SCI-VIS), Dan Oates is more than a “friend” to SPACE CAMP – he is a champion. For 20 years, Oates has surrendered his summers and free time to bring to life this very special program. With a gift for drawing into his world the very best in the field of education for blind and visually impaired students, Dan has enlisted an army of teachers and specialists to make SCI-VIS possible and to bring these very special children out of their comfort zone and immerse them into the world of tomorrow. Today, a child who has never seen his mother’s face can launch the space shuttle and guide it safely home again. Oates has always given of himself – and to more than 2,200 students he has given perhaps the greatest gift of all, confidence...confidence in themselves and in their abilities.

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger Hometown: Ft. Collins, Colorado Whitman College Although a trip to SPACE ACADEMY at the age of 14 opened up a world of possibilities for Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, it was a question from one of her 8th grade Astronomy students that really changed her life. It was the age-old question of “how do astronauts use the bathroom in space,” that led the young teacher to NASA’s website where the Educator Astronaut position had just been posted. Metcalf-Lindenburger had long been a science enthusiast and considers herself a sort of teacher for all people; the opportunity could not have been more perfect. So when she was selected as the youngest member of the 2004 Educator Astronaut Candidate Class, it was literally a dream come true. Today, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger has completed her Astronaut Training and has been assigned to STS-131 as a Mission Specialist aboard the Orbiter Discovery scheduled for launch in 2010.

Dr. Jim Rice Tuscaloosa, Alabama BS, University of Alabama, MS, Northeast Louisiana University, Ph.D, Arizona State University Believing that exploration is the lifeblood of a civilization, Astrogeologist Dr. Jim Rice has always interested in science and the history’s great explorers. Today, he is both…scientist and explorer. Rice started his journey as a SPACE CAMP crew trainers in 1985 and used his location and passion to endear himself to a group of Marshall Space Flight Center engineers. The engineers did more than befriend Rice; they helped him obtain an internship with NASA in which he helped select a landing site for a project that would send the first robot to Mars. Today, Dr. Rice is one of the Science Team Members for Mars Rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, and is the man behind the camera onboard Mars Odyssey – targeting the camera and analyzing the fantastic photos that are returned. Dr. Jim Rice spends his days, literally, looking for life on Mars.

Amanda Stubblefield Cross Plains, Tennessee BS, Vanderbilt University MAS, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University A former trainee and camp crew trainer (1995 – 2000), Amanda Stubblefield went from training students at space camp and aviation challenge to training astronauts at nasa’s Johnson Space Center. It was the 1983 launch of Challenger, aboard which flew the first American woman astronaut, that sealed Stubblefield’s fate. Although only 8 at the time of that historic launch, she knew before Challenger disappeared from sight that she would be a part of the Space Program. With an engineering degree in hand, Amanda worked diligently to ensure that she was on the path to fulfilling her childhood dreams. Stubblefield has realized those dreams and today serves as an instructor for the astronauts and cosmonauts who will fly to the International Space Station.

Penny J. Pettigrew Hometown: Chula Vista, California BS, Colorado School of Mines MS, University of Alabama Huntsville Penny Pettigrew has always been interested in the space program but freely admits she had no idea what she wanted to do with her chemistry degree until she attended SPACE CAMP. She never thought of working for NASA and considered the space agency as a place reserved for astronauts only, but a trip to the Adult SPACE CAMP program while still in college opened a world of new possibilities. Today, Pettigrew is the Ares I First Stage Systems Engineering and Integration Engineering Lead, a position of great opportunity and great responsibility. She leads a group of engineers who are responsible for defining, validating, and verifying the requirements for the thousands of components that will make up the Ares I First Stage and relies on a simple project fundamental to overcome the daunting nature of her task…teamwork. Not only does Pettigrew consider teamwork to be the cornerstone of the manned space flight program, but also lists it as “Lesson 1” at SPACE CAMP.






(256) 837-3400
U.S. Space & Rocket Center
One Tranquility Base
Huntsville, AL 35805