The U.S. astronaut who is co-holder of the record for the greatest number of flights into space has retired from NASA, the agency announced.
Jerry Ross, the first person to launch into space seven times, spent more than three decades with NASA, talling more than 1,400 hours in space and performing nine spacewalks. Ross ranks third of the list of most time accumulated spacewalking.
Franklin Chang-Diaz, who will be inducted in the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in May, is the only other American astronauts with seven flights into space. Prior to Ross' seventh flight in 2002, the U.S. record of six flights was held by John Young. Young flew twice in the Gemini program, twice during Apollo and twice on the space shuttle.
NASA Chief Astronaut Peggy Whitson noted that Ross played instrumental roles in the success of many American missions into space. He is regarded as one of the world's most accomplished spacewalkers. "Not only were his skills and operational excellence key in major spaceflight activities, but his expertise and vigilance also helped all those who followed in his footsteps. We are the better for his years of dedication to the corps and NASA," Whitson said in a statement.
Ross joined NASA in 1979 as a payload officer and flight controller. He was selected as an astronaut the following year.
He is well known and well-regarded at Kennedy Space Center, where he spent several years as the manager of the Vehicle Integration Test Office.
"Jerry was equally invaluable leading this critical team, especially through space station assembly, the transition to the space shuttle retirement, and during the initial phases of our future programs" said Janet Kavandi, director of Flight Crew Operations. "He was considered a mentor to many he worked with there."
Five of Ross' seven flights were aboard Atlantis. He also flew once on Endeavour and once on Columbia. His flights: STS-61B in 1985; STS-27 in 1988; STS-37 in 1991; STS-55 in 1993; STS-74 in 1995; STS-88 in 1998 and STS-110 in 2002.
Check out his bio HERE.
ABOUT THE IMAGE: Jerry Ross is shown here with the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory in the background. The observatory was launched on STS-37 in 1991. Ross and Jay Apt performed NASA's first post-Challenger spacewalk on the mission to free the observatory's main communications antenna, which failed to deploy properly.