Joseph Richard “Joe” Tanner

Joseph Richard “Joe” Tanner was born January 21, 1950 in Danville, Illinois. He was awarded Eagle Scout by the Prairielands Council with the Boy Scouts of America in Champaign, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois where he was the captain of the swimming team and included in the “Top 100 Seniors”. He received an award for being an Outstanding Alumnus of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering from the University as well. He has an identical twin brother named David, who went to Indiana University. David was also an accomplished student who graduated Phi Betta Kappa with a double major in Math and Physics as well as a master’s degree in Computer and Exercise Science and a PHD in Human Performance from the Department of Kinesiology.

Joe Tanner completed Navy Flight training as a distinguished graduate. It was the operational military flying as a military jet pilot that allowed him to transition to operational jet training at NASA and eventually selected into the astronaut corps. Tanner is different than most candidates because he does not possess an advanced degree nor does he have a background in flight test. Typically a candidate will have a MD, PhD or masters without the flight test experience.

The same distinction applies to his current position at the University of Colorado at Boulder as an instructor. Most of Tanner’s co-faculty all have at least a masters if not a PhD. He became a senior instructor at the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Aerospace Engineering Science department in September of 2008 and still holds that position today.

NASA selected Tanner to join as an astronaut in 1992.   During his time at NASA he completed four flights, receiving a medal for each. He also received NASA’s Exceptional Service Medal and NASA’s Stuart M. Present Flight Achievement Award. He logged 43 days 13 hours and 15 minutes in space and is currently retired from astronaut.

His completed his first flight with NASA November 3, 1994 aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a crew member of the STS-66. The flight was the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science-3 or ATLAS-3 mission. It was the third of a series in which data about the Earth’s atmosphere composition and solar effects at different points to time during the Sun’s 11 year cycle is gathered. The crew used CRISTA-SPAS, a satellite, to gather data by placing it in the middle of the chemical composition and then retrieving it and the data later in the mission. After Tanner logged 262 hours, 34 minutes and 175 orbits of the Earth, the mission came to a close on November 14th.

During his second flight, Tanner also performed two space walks totaling 14 hours and one minute. In February of 1997 with the seven member crew STS-82, he launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). The crew took 5 space walks during their mission to improve the science capability of the telescope and brought the equipment to near perfect condition. The crew’s accomplishments included replacing the aging support equipment and boosting the HST’s orbit by 8 nautical miles (15 km) and then placing it back in orbit to gather more data on the universe. After Tanner traveled 4.1 million miles (6,600,000) in 9 days, 23 hours, and 37, the shuttle completed a night landing at Kennedy Space Center on February the 21st.

Tanner’s third mission was the fifth in a series of flights dedicated to assemble the International Space Station. On November 30, 2000, the STS-97crew launched the Space Shuttle Endeavor and docked on the Space Station with supplies for the first resident crew of the Station. Installing the first set of U.S. solar arrays was completed during Tanner’s three space walks adding up to 19 hours and 20 minutes. After Tanner traveled 4.47 million miles (7,190,000 km) in 10 days, 19 hours, 57 minutes, the crew returned to Earth on December the 11th.

On September 9, 2006 Tanner began his fourth flight, STS-115, aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis. He again performed a spacewalk lasting 5 hours and 26 minutes. He successfully connected the P3/4 truss (used to rotate the solar arrays installed in his third mission) to the Space Station on September 13th and returned to Earth on September 21, 2006.

Image Caption: Portrait astronaut Joseph Tanner. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia