Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterRobert Lee Stewart is a retired Brigadier General and NASA astronaut who logged nearly 300 hours in space. He and Bruce McCandless II were the first to make untethered spacewalks using the Manned Maneuvering Unit.
General Stewart began his post-secondary education at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in mathematics in 1964. He then turned to the University of Texas at Arlington to earn a master of science in aerospace engineering in 1972. He began his active duty career with the United States Army 1964 as an air defense artillery director at the 32nd NORAD Region Headquarters (SAGE), Gunter Air Force Base, Alabama. In 1966, after completing rotary wing training, he became an Army pilot. He flew 1,035 hours combat time from August 1966 to 1967. He was also an instructor pilot at the U.S. Army Primary Helicopter School. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1974, and was assigned as an experimental test pilot at the U.S. Army Aviation Engineering Flight Activity. He has flown 38 types of airplanes and helicopters and logged over 6,000 hours of flight time.
He became a NASA astronaut in August 1979. His early duties included the testing and evaluation of the entry flight control systems for STS-1, ascent abort procedures development, and payload coordination. He was designated as a support crewman for STS-4 and Ascent/Orbit CAPCOM for STS-5. His time in space came during missions STS-41-B and STS-51-J. During those flights he logged nearly 3000 hours in space, twelve of which were spent performing spacewalks. He was scheduled to make a third spaceflight, but promotion to Brigadier led to his reassignment and retirement from the astronaut program.
During STS-41-B, Stewart launched aboard the space shuttle Challenger. It was during this mission that Stewart and McCandless participated in two extravehicular activities(EVA’s or spacewalks) to perform the first inflight evaluations of the Manned Maneuvering Units (MMU’s). These were the first untethered spacewalks in history. first untethered operations from a spacecraft in flight. His second mission was aboard the space shuttle Atlantis. During this mission, STS-51-J, Stewart performed several Department of Defense activities as well as carried out multiple experiments. All of the astronauts on this mission were kept quite busy, as this was the maiden voyage of Atlantis and many systems required inflight testing.
We’ve also recorded an episode of Astronomy Cast about the space shuttle. Listen here, Episode 127: The US Space Shuttle.