A Project of the Coast Guard Aviation Association

1990 – CDR Bruce Melnick – First Coast Guard Astronaut

Selected by NASA in June 1987, Commander Melnick became an astronaut in August 1988 and qualified for assignment as a mission specialist on Space Shuttle flight crews. Melnick flew on STS-41 in 1990, and STS-49 in 1992. He logged over 300 hours of space flight.

Melnick graduated from the Coast Guard Academy His initial assignment was as a deck watch officer aboard the USCG Cutter Steadfast, homeported in St. Petersburg, Florida. After 16 months sea duty, he was sent to Navy flight training in Pensacola and participated in the CNTRA’s Masters Program. After earning his wings in 1974, and his degree in 1975, he served two 3-1/2 year tours as a Coast Guard Rescue Pilot at CGAS Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and at Sitka, Alaska where he helped save 115 people from the sinking cruise ship Prinsendam. He was then assigned to the Aircraft Program Office in Grand Prairie, Texas, where he conducted many of the developmental and acceptance tests on the Coast Guard’s HH-65A “Dolphin” helicopter. In 1986 he was transferred to CGAS Traverse City, Michigan, where he served as the Operations Officer until his selection to the astronaut program.

Melnick first flew on STS-41. The five man crew launched aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on October 6 from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on October 10, 1990. During 66 orbits of the earth the STS-41 crew successfully deployed the ULYSSES spacecraft, starting this interplanetary probe on its four year journey, via Jupiter, to investigate the polar regions of the Sun; operated the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet instrument (SSBUV) to map atmospheric ozone levels; activated a controlled “fire in space” experiment (the Solid Surface Combustion Experiment (SSCE); and conducted numerous other mid-deck experiments involving radiation measurements, polymer membrane production and microgravity effects on plants.  Mission duration was 98 hours 10 minutes 04 seconds.

On his second mission, Melnick served as a crewmember on  STS-49, May 7-16, 1992, aboard the maiden flight of the new Space Shuttle Endeavour. During 141 orbits of the Earth, the STS-49 crew rendezvoused with, captured, attached a new rocket motor to, and deployed the Intelsat VI communications satellite, and conducted the Assembly of Station by EVA methods (ASEM) evaluation. The mission included the most EVAs (4) during a Shuttle flight, the first ever 3 person EVA, and the two longest EVAs in Shuttle history. Melnick performed the duties of flight Engineer (MS-2) and was the principal Remote Manipulator System (RMS) operator throughout the mission.

Commander Melnick retired from the U.S. Coast Guard and left NASA in July 1992. He received numerous awards including two Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medals, Two Distinguished Flying Crosses and the Secretary of Transportation Heroism Award. In August 2000 he was inducted into the United States Coast Guard Aviation Hall of Honor.

The Early Years

The Growth Years

Coming Of Age

The Modern Era

The Present Era

Oral History