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Former space shuttle astronaut Dale Gardner dies

Feb. 24, 2014 - 09:32PM   |  
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DENVER — Former astronaut Dale Gardner, who helped haul a stranded satellite into the space shuttle during a 1984 spacewalk, died Wednesday at age 65.

Gardner died in Colorado Springs, according to his obituary in the Colorado Springs Gazette. The obituary did not list the cause of death. The NASA website says he died on Feb. 19.

Gardner flew two shuttle missions, in 1983 and 1984. He logged 337 hours in space and 225 Earth orbits, and he went on two spacewalks totaling 12 hours.

The 1983 mission, in the Challenger, was the first night launch and first night re-entry for the shuttle program.

The 1984 mission salvaged two satellites that were stuck in the wrong orbits and brought them back to Earth. After Gardner helped retrieve one of them, a Western Union communications satellite, he posed for a photo outside the shuttle with a “for sale” sign.

Both satellites were eventually returned to orbit.

Gardner left NASA after 8 ½ years. His father, William Gardner, said at the time that his son was frustrated by delays in resuming the shuttle program after the Challenger was destroyed by a booster-rocket explosion in 1986, killing all seven astronauts aboard.

A commander in the Navy, Gardner then returned to active duty. He served as the U.S. Space Command’s deputy director for space control at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs.

He retired from the Navy in 1990 and worked for TRW Inc., Northrup Grumman and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo. He retired from civilian work in January 2013.

His funeral service is scheduled for Tuesday in Colorado Springs.

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