Congressional Space Medal of Honor

Congressional Space Medal of Honor
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Congressional Space Medal of Honor
Awarded by the United States Congress
CountryUnited States
TypeMedal
EligibilityNASA astronauts
Awarded for"exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind"
StatusActive
Statistics
EstablishedSeptember 29, 1969
First awardedOctober 1, 1978
Total awarded28
Posthumous
awards
17
Precedence
Next (lower)NASA Distinguished Service Medal
NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal
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Congressional Space Medal of Honor ribbon
Neil Armstrong being awarded the first medal by President Jimmy Carter in 1978, with subsequent recipients Borman and Conrad seated.

The Congressional Space Medal of Honor was authorized by the United States Congress in 1969 to recognize "any astronaut who in the performance of his or her duties has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind".[1] It is awarded by the President of the United States in Congress's name on recommendations from the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The award is a separate decoration from the Medal of Honor, which is a military award for extreme bravery and gallantry in combat.

Although the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is a civilian award of the United States government, it is authorized as a military decoration for display on U.S. military uniforms due to the prestige of the decoration. In such cases, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is worn as a ribbon following all United States Armed Forces decorations.

To be awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, an astronaut must perform feats of extraordinary accomplishment while participating in space flight under the authority of NASA. Typically, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is awarded for scientific discoveries or actions of tremendous benefit to mankind. The decoration may also be awarded for extreme bravery during a space emergency or in preventing a major space disaster. The Congressional Space Medal of Honor may also be presented posthumously to those astronauts who die while performing a US space mission; and as of 2019, all 17 astronauts killed on US missions have been awarded the medal.

President George W. Bush presented the most awards of the CSMOH, with 16 (of which 14 were posthumous for the two destroyed space shuttle flights, thus setting the standard for all astronauts killed in the line of duty receiving the award). The 11-year 8-month period from 1981 to 1993 was the longest gap between awards since its inception in 1978 until the current 13-year hiatus ongoing since April 2006.

U.S. President Jimmy Carter – 6 presentations

U.S. President Ronald Reagan – 1 presentation

U.S. President George H. W. Bush – 1 presentation

U.S. President Bill Clinton – 4 presentations

U.S. President George W. Bush – 16 presentations

Recipients

Currently, 28 astronauts have been honored with the award, 17 of which were awarded posthumously for those who died in American spaceflight. Three died in the Apollo 1 fire, seven died in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and seven in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. An asterisk indicates a posthumous award. Four of the twelve moonwalkers received the medal (Armstrong, Conrad, Shepard, and Young), but only Neil Armstrong for his lunar mission. The New Nine class of U.S. astronauts (the second group of astronauts selected by NASA) has the most recipients of the medal, with seven. Second is NASA Astronaut Group 8 which received five awards, four for astronauts killed in the Challenger Disaster (Shannon Lucid is the only group 8 astronaut to receive the award who was not killed in the Challenger Disaster).

As of September 2019, only six recipients are living; four are over 80 years old, and two of those four are 90 (Frank Borman and Jim Lovell both having turned 90 in March 2018). Frank Borman is the last living of the original six recipients who received the CSMOH in 1978.

Photo Name Date Awarded by Notes Ref(s)
Neil Armstrong Neil Armstrong (1930–2012) October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Apollo 11 (Commander of the first lunar landing, first man to walk on the Moon) [1][2]
Frank Borman Frank Borman (1928–) October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Apollo 8 (Commander of the first lunar orbit) [1][3]
Pete Conrad Pete Conrad (1930–1999) October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Skylab 2 (first Skylab Commander; responsible for salvaging the critically malfunctioning station) [1][4]
John Glenn John Glenn (1921–2016) October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Mercury-Atlas 6 (first American in orbit) [1][5]
Gus Grissom Gus Grissom* (1926–1967) October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Apollo 1, Gemini 3 and Mercury-Redstone 4 (Commander of the first manned Gemini); died aboard Apollo 1 [1][6]
Alan Shepard Alan Shepard (1923–1998) October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Mercury-Redstone 3 (first American in space) [1][7]
John Young John Young (1930–2018) May 19, 1981 Ronald Reagan STS-1 (Commander of the first shuttle flight) [1][8]
Thomas Stafford Thomas P. Stafford (1930–) January 19, 1993 George H. W. Bush Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (U.S. Commander) [1][9]
James Lovell Jim Lovell (1928–) July 26, 1995 Bill Clinton Apollo 13 (Commander of the ill-fated mission) [1][10]
Shannon Lucid Shannon Lucid (1943–) December 2, 1996 Bill Clinton Longest female spaceflight (passed by Sunita Williams) [1][11]
Roger Chaffee Roger Chaffee* (1935–1967) December 17, 1997 Bill Clinton Died aboard Apollo 1 [1][12]
Edward White Ed White* (1930–1967) December 17, 1997 Bill Clinton Apollo 1 and Gemini 4 (first U.S. space walk); died aboard Apollo 1 [1][12]
William Shepherd William Shepherd (1949–) January 15, 2003 George W. Bush Expedition 1 (first ISS Commander) [1][13]
Rick Husband Rick Husband* (1957–2003) February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia) [1][14]
Willie McCool Willie McCool* (1961–2003) February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia) [1][14]
Michael Anderson Michael P. Anderson* (1959–2003) February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia) [1][14]
Kalpana Chawla Kalpana Chawla* (1962–2003) February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia) [1][14]
David Brown David M. Brown* (1956–2003) February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia) [1][14]
Laurel Clark Laurel Clark* (1961–2003) February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia) [1][14]
Ilan Ramon Ilan Ramon* (1954–2003) February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia, only non-U.S. citizen recipient) [1][15]
Dick Schobee Dick Scobee* (1939–1986) July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger) [1][16]
Michael Smith Michael J. Smith* (1945–1986) July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger) [1][16]
Judith Resnik Judith Resnik* (1949–1986) July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger) [1][16]
Ronald McNair Ronald McNair* (1950–1986) July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger) [1][16]
Ellison Onizuka Ellison Onizuka* (1946–1986) July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger) [1][16]
Greg Jarvis Gregory Jarvis* (1944–1986) July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger) [1][16]
Christa McAuliffe Christa McAuliffe* (1948–1986) July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger, teacher) [1][16]
Robert Crippen Robert Crippen (1937–) April 26, 2006 George W. Bush STS-1 (first shuttle flight, Pilot) [1][17]