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First black commander of a space shuttle mission to participate in Space Fest

  • Published
  • By Sarah Swan
  • National Museum of the U.S. Air Force
Former NASA astronaut and retired Air Force Colonel Frederick D. Gregory, who was the first African American to command a space shuttle mission, will participate in Space Fest activities on May 15-16 at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

Gregory was selected as an astronaut in January 1978 and flew on three shuttle missions. He piloted the STS-51B/Spacelab-3 flight in 1985, during which the crew conducted a broad range of scientific experiments, from space physics to the suitability of animal-holding facilities. Gregory commanded STS-33 in 1989 during a mission carrying Department of Defense payloads and other secondary payloads. He also commanded STS-44 in 1991 when the crew successfully deployed their prime payload, the Defense Support Program (DSP) satellite. In addition, he served as NASA deputy administrator from 2002-2005.

Several Space Fest activities will feature Gregory. He will introduce the movie Star Trek (2009) on Friday, May 15 in the Air Force Museum Theatre. This movie was Leonard Nimoy's last major role in a Star Trek film, and tickets are available at a reduced cost of $5 per person.

On Saturday, May 16, Gregory will participate in an autograph session from 10-11:30 a.m. at the museum's Space Shuttle Exhibit. Visitors may bring one item per person to be autographed. At 1 p.m. Gregory will discuss his experiences in space during a free presentation in Carney Auditorium. Then, at 4 p.m. he will introduce the newly-released film Journey to Space in the Air Force Museum Theatre. Ticket information for that film is available on the theatre's website,

The astronaut appearances are just part of the multitude of space-related activities taking place during Space Fest.

The event begins on Friday, May 15 with a rocket launch, signaling the start of a 1-mile kids' race at 6 p.m., followed by the 5K Fun Run: Space Costume Edition at 6:30 p.m. All participants are encouraged to wear costumes, and registration for the races is available at Following the showing of Star Trek, a star-gaze with telescopes will take place from 9:30-11 p.m.

Throughout the day on Saturday, the museum and a number of partner organizations will offer hands-on activities for all ages. In addition to Gregory's appearances, visitors can build and launch model rockets, try out space shuttle landing simulators, listen to stories and make crafts, meet costumed characters such as crowd favorite R2-D2, take tours of the museum's Space Shuttle Exhibit and much more.

Admission to most activities is free, although there are costs associated with the 5K run, movies at the Air Force Museum Theatre and flight simulators. For up-to-date details about the event, please visit

The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, is the world's largest military aviation museum. With free admission and parking, the museum features more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles and thousands of artifacts amid more than 17 acres of indoor exhibit space. Each year about one million visitors from around the world come to the museum. For more information, visit

NOTE TO PUBLIC: For more information, please contact the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at (937) 255-4646.

NOTE TO MEDIA: For more information, please contact Sarah Swan at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force Public Affairs Division at (937) 255-1283.