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Astronaut Professor Dr. Norman Earl Thagard, BS, MS, MBA, MD, DSM (NASA)

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BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY: Astronaut Professor Dr. Norman Earl Thagard, BS, MS, MBA, MD, DSM (NASA)

Dr. Norman Earl Thagard is an astronaut, medical doctor and Distinguished Fellow of New Westminster College. His formal education and training includes:

  • 1965: Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science (B.S.), Florida State University
  • 1966: Master of Science in Engineering Science (M.S.), Florida State University – Performed pre-med coursework at Florida State University
  • 1977: Doctor of Medicine (M.D.), University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dallas, Texas
  • 2007: Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.), University of Florida

Dr. Thagard has a distinguished record of ethical leadership and served as a mission specialist astronaut aboard four Space Shuttle missions and was the first American to occupy Russia’s Mir space station, conducting research for 115 days with Russian cosmonauts.

In 1966, Dr. Thagard entered active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and became a naval aviator in 1968. He flew 163 F-4 combat missions in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. He earned his medical degree and was interning at the Medical University of South Carolina when he was selected by NASA for astronaut training in 1978.

Dr. Thagard first flew on the second flight of Challenger, launched with a crew of five in June 1983. The astronauts deployed three satellites and performed a number of science experiments. He used his medical skills to collect data on physiological changes associated with astronaut adaptation to weightlessness. Dr. Thagard was aboard Challenger again in April 1985 for a week of research in the Space-Lab 3 Module anchored in the cargo bay. He was involved in several medical experiments and helped monitor the health of 24 rats and two squirrel monkeys who were aboard in cages.

Dr. Thagard’s next assignment was aboard Atlantis in May 1989 on a four-day mission during which a planetary probe for the first time was launched from a shuttle. The crew deployed the Magellan-Venus spacecraft to Venus to map that planet’s surface with radar instruments. The astronauts also worked with experiments involving fluid research, chemistry and electrical storm studies. Dr. Thagard’s final space shuttle flight was aboard Discovery, launched in January 1992 with a crew of eight on an eight-day mission during which 55 major experiments were conducted in the Microgravity Laboratory-1 Module berthed in the cargo bay. The experiments provided by investigators from 11 countries concentrated on the effects of microgravity on materials processing and life sciences. Dr. Thagard served as the payload commander.

On 14 March 1995, Dr. Thagard was the first American astronaut to blast off in a Soyuz spacecraft from Russia’s Baikonur Cosmodrome for a flight to the Mir Space Station. Liftoff was from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakstan on 14 March 1995. Once the ship docked, Dr. Thagard worked on a total of 28 experiments, finally returning to earth after 115 days in space shuttle Atlantis, which had rendezvoused with Mir for a crew exchange. The mission culminated in a landing at the Kennedy Space Center in the Space Shuttle Atlantis on July 7, 1995. Following this flight, Dr. Thagard resigned from NASA to teach at Florida State University. Currently, he is a tenured professor and an Associate Dean of the FAMU-FSC College of Engineering.

Dr. Thagard’s affiliations, memberships and other activities include:

  • Distinguished Fellow, Fellows of New Westminster College
  • Distinguished Lecturer, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics
  • Member, Aerospace Medical Association
  • Member, Phi Kappa Phi
  • Supporter, Tallahassee Symphony Orchestra 
  • Advisor, Space Adventures, Ltd.
  • Aerospace Consultant and Technical Advisor to Hollywood for Movies: “Virus” starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Sutherland, and “Armageddon” starring Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, and Liv Tyler
  • Co-founder and Executive Director, Challenger Learning Center of Tallahassee: shuttle, mission control, space station simulators, digital space theater, planetarium and IMAX theatre
  • Member, Board of Directors, EMS Technologies, Inc.

Dr. Thagard’s honours and awards include:

  • 2013: Distinguished Fellow, New Westminster College, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2004: Inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame
  • 2004: Commendation Proclamation, City of Tallahassee, Florida
  • 2001: Erskine Visiting Fellow, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand
  • 2000: Designated Honorary Conch and Citizen of the Florida Keys
  • 1998: Participated in the 1998 Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California on a float that won the “Best Animation” award
  • 1998: Admitted to Circle of Gold Honorary Society, Florida State University
  • 1998: A small portion of Jacksonville, Florida’s 5th Street, in front of his alma mater, Paxon High School, was renamed “Norman E. Thagard Boulevard”
  • 1997: Recognized in Guinness Book of Records for setting U.S. human space flight records
  • 1997: W. Randolph Lovelace Award, Society of NASA Flight Surgeons
  • 1996: Recipient of Russia’s Order of Friendship, presented personally by Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin
  • 1996: Named as one of NASA’s 15 “Superstars of Space Flight”
  • 1996: Inducted into New Mexico’s International Space Hall of Fame
  • 1996: Jeffries Medical Research Award, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics 
  • 1996: Hubertus Strughold Award for Space Medicine, Aerospace Medical Association
  • 1996: At the request of the Smithsonian Institution, his Russian “SOKOL” space suit was donated to the National Air and Space Museum
  • 1996: Henry G. Armstrong Lecturer in Aerospace Medicine
  • 1996: Commendation Resolution, Senate of Florida
  • 1995: Commendation Proclamation, City of Tallahassee, Florida
  • 1995: Laurels Award, Aviation Week and Space Technology
  • 1995: Melbourne W. Boynton Award, American Astronautical Society 
  • 1995: Wescott Medal, Florida State University
  • 1992: Designated by the Commandant of the Marine Corps as an honorary Naval Astronaut Pilot
  • 1986: Florida State University’s Student Health Center was designated as the Thagard Student Health Center by Legislative Act
  • 1983: Melbourne W. Boynton Award, American Astronautical Society
  • 1983: Grad Made Good Award, Florida State University 

Dr. Thagard’s decorations include the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, NASA Sustained Superior Performance Award (twice), NASA Space Flight Medals, 11 Air Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal with “V” and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with Palm.

As a Distinguished Fellow of New Westminster College, Dr. Norman Earl Thagard is dedicated to supporting the highest standards of academic excellence and is committed to the advancement of New Westminster College and its Global Network of Fellows.



  1. […] Professor Dr. Norman Earl Thagard, BS, MS, MBA, MD, DSM (NASA) – Medical Doctor and Scientist […]

  2. […] Professor Dr. Norman Earl Thagard, BS, MS, MBA, MD, DSM (NASA) – Medical Doctor and Scientist Astronaut on American and Russian Space Flight Missions, NASA Hall of Fame […]


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