Charles L. Veach

Charles Lacy Veach served as a United States Air Force fighter pilot for over 14 years before being selected as a NASA Astronaut in 1984. Veach served as an astronaut until his passing from cancer on October 3, 1995 in Houston, Texas.

“Lacy” Veach was born in Chicago, Illinois and with his family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. His parents, Mr. and Mrs. Marshall E. Veach, still reside in Honolulu. Veach graduated from Punahou School in 1962 and went forward in his academics to the United Air Force Academy within the same year. He worked until he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Management in 1966.

As Veach had hoped, he was selected by the United States Air Force after graduation from the United States Air Force Academy. Once in the USAF, he worked to earn his pilot wings and did so at the Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, in 1967. Specializing even further, he attended fighter gunnery school at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. Veach had a 14 year career in USAF where he served as a USAF fighter pilot (F-100 Super Sabre, General Dynamics F-111, F-105 Thunderchief) flying in the United States, Europe, the Far East, and a combat tour in the Republic of Vietnam. He was also flew the T-38 Talon in the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron otherwise known as the Thunderbirds. Even though Veach left active duty in 1981, he could not leave flying completely and continued to fly fighters as an F-16 Fighting Falcon pilot with the Texas Air National Guard where he has logged over 5,000 flying hours. In Houston, Texas at the Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base there is a museum display of the F-16 Fighting Falcon that has Veach’s name displaying on the craft to commemorate Veach’s contributions as a pilot. During his time at USAF, Veach earned the Distinguished Flying Cross with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Medal with 13 Oak Leaf Clusters, the Air Force Commendation Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart.

Veach had left active duty from the USAF to work for NASA in January 1982. Veach was selected to serve as an engineer and a research pilot at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Veach’s pilot experience was utilized by having his primary position as an instructor pilot in the Shuttle Training School. Veach’s mission there was to train astronaut pilots to land the Space Shuttle using the highly modified Gulfstream II Aircraft.

In a short amount of time, Veach was selected as an astronaut candidate in May 1984. He completed his 52 week training and became an astronaut in June 1985. Veach logged 18 days, 4 hours and 18 minutes in space and completed two flight missions including STS-39 in 1991 and STS-52 in 1992.

The first of Veach’s missions, STS-39, launched on April 28, 1991 from Kennedy Air Force Base in Florida aboard the Orbiter Discovery. This unclassified Department of Defense mission was responsible for landmark observations of the Earth’s atmosphere and the Aurora Australis or the Southern Lights.  Veach operated an ultraviolet astronomical camera, an x-ray telescope, and a liquid helium-cooled infrared telescope to capture this data. The crew returned after 8 days on May 6, 1991 at Kennedy Space Center.

The second mission on Veach’s resume was mission STS-52 aboard the Orbiter Columbia which launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on October 22, 1992.  This mission was a joint Italian-American project in which the crew is to deploy the Laser Geodynamic Satellite (LAGEOS). The crew was not only successful in the deployment, they also operated the first United States Microgravity Payload (USMP) with both French and American experiments on board. Veach was in charge of operating the Remote Manipulator System (RMS) again as well as supporting the initial flight tests of the Canadian-built Space Vision System (SVS). The Orbiter Columbia landed at Kennedy Space Center on November 1, 1992.

Lacy Veach is interred at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific located in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Image Caption: Portrait astronaut Charles Veach. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia