Charles Gemar is a former NASA astronaut and a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army. He was born Charles Donald “Sam” Gemar on August 4, 1955 in Yankton, South Dakota. In 1973, immediately after he graduated from Scotland Public High School in Scotland, South Dakota, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and reported for duty on June 11. His first assignment was to the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, North Carolina in November 1973, where he was invited to attend the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Gemar earned a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering from the United States Military Academy in 1979. After his graduation he went to Fort Benning, Georgia to attend the Infantry Officers Basic Course. He also attended the Initial Entry Rotary Wing Aviation Course and the Fixed Wing Multi-Engine Aviators Course at Fort Rucker, Alabama. In October 1980, Gemar moved to Georgia to serve in the 24th Infantry Division at Fort Stewart. There he had many roles, including Assistant Flight Operations Officer, Flight Platoon Leader for the 24th Combat Aviation Battalion, Commander of Wright Army Airfield, and Chief of the Operations Branch for Hunter Army Airfield. He stayed in Georgia until 1985, when NASA chose him as an astronaut candidate.
In July 1986, after a year of training and evaluation, Gemar became a NASA astronaut qualified to be a mission specialist on future Space Shuttle flights. During his career with NASA, he held many different positions, all of which were in support of the Space Shuttle program, including flight software researcher in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory, launch support specialist at the Kennedy Space Center, CAPCOM in mission control, and Chief of Astronaut Appearances. On the night of November 15, 1990 Gemar was launched into space for the first time. The STS-38 mission carried a five man crew aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis with the intent to carry out Department of Defense operations. After a successful 80 orbits of the Earth, they landed back at the Kennedy Space Center on November 20, 1990. The following year, Gemar was launched back into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. The STS-48 mission began on September 12, 1991 to send out the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite, which would use a global scale to study the winds, gravity, and chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere. After the satellite deployed, the mission landed at Edwards Air Force Base on September 18, 1991.
More recently, Gemar flew aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-62. The mission launched on March 4, 1994 carrying the United States Microgravity Payload and the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology payloads. The crew was successful in performing sixty engineering and scientific experiments, and they set a record by flying the lowest nautical miles ever by a Space Shuttle. After 224 orbits of the Earth, Columbia landed back at the Kennedy Space Center on March 18, 1994. Gemar belongs to many organizations, including the United States Military Academy Association of Graduates, the Army Aviation Association of America, the Association of Space Explorers, Mount Rushmore National Monument Preservation Society, and the Nassau Bay Volunteer Fire Department. He has earned a Defense Superior Service Medal, a Defense Meritorious Service Medal, an Army Commendation Medal, an Army Achievement Medal, a Good Conduct Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, a National Intelligence Achievement Medal, a NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal, and three NASA Space Flight Medals. He is married to Charlene Stringer and they have two children.
Image Caption: NASA Astronaut Charles D. (nickname Sam) Gemar. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia