The ashes of William “Bill” Pogue, a former astronaut and retired Air Force colonel from Sand Springs, are aboard a satellite launched on the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket.
The SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket was launched from Kennedy Space Center in Florida June 25. The launch, part of the Department of Defense’s Space Test Program-2 (STP-2), delivered 24 satellites into low-earth orbit.
“This launch was a true partnership across government and industry, and it marked an incredible first for the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center,” Jim Reuter, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said in a statement. “The NASA missions aboard the Falcon Heavy also benefited from strong collaborations with industry, academia and other government organizations.”
General Atomics spokeswoman Karen Johnson said in an email that an orbital test bed satellite designed by the company that was launched on the Falcon Heavy rocket is holding the remains of about 130 people, including Pogue as part of a Celestis Memorial Spaceflight, as well as NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Deep Space Atomic Clock, designed and built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to support deep space navigation and exploration; a Modular Solar Array developed for the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL); an Integrated Miniaturized Electrostatic Analyzer sensor payload developed by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy; the RadMon next generation radiation effects monitor; the FlexRX programmable satellite receiver.
Johnson said the remains will be onboard the satellite until it re-enters the atmosphere.
Pogue was born in 1930 in Okemah and reportedly began his 25-year career with the U.S. Air Force shortly after graduating from high school in Sand Springs. He served as a combat fighter pilot in Korea and spent two years as an aerobatic pilot with the Air Force’s Thunderbirds, according to his biography on Celestis’ website.
Pogue was selected by NASA to be an astronaut in 1966 and he was reportedly on the support crews for Apollos 7, 11 and 14. He, along with fellow astronauts Jerry Carr and Ed Gibson spent 84 days in space aboard the Skylab space station in 1977 and ’74, which set endurance and distance records.
He reportedly left NASA in 1977 and was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 1997. Pogue died in 2014 at 84.
The William R. Pogue Municipal Airport is named for him and the Tulsa Air and Space Museum reportedly has an exhibit dedicated to him.