Texas Squadron Hears from Former Astronaut
Members of the Texas Wing’s Pegasus Composite Squadron received a first-hand perspective on test piloting and on space flight when retired U.S. Air Force Col. Sidney M. Gutierrez discussed his years in the military and in NASA, including 20 days and eight hours in space as pilot of one space shuttle flight and commander of another.
Gutierrez supplemented his slide presentation with accounts of his career flying Air Force fights as well as space shuttle missions.
He talked about his efforts to gain admission to the Air Force Academy, his experiences as a T-38 instructor pilot, and his desire to become an Air Force test pilot.
Sometimes the Air Force had other ideas, he said, but by working with his superiors he attained a position in test pilot school.
His success in the school enabled him to fly the then-new F-16 Falcon, putting it through strenuous tests and evaluations.
He has logged over 4,500 flying hours in about 30 types of airplanes, sailplanes, balloons, and rockets.
Gutierrez became a NASA astronaut in June 1985. He piloted Space Shuttle Columbia on its June 5-14 flight, orbiting Earth 46 times in 218 hours.
He returned to space April 9, 1994, as commander of Space Shuttle Endeavor, which conducted Space Radar Laboratory (SRL-l) experiments before landing April 20.
Cadets in the Pegasus squadron asked him such questions as “What does it take to become a test pilot?”, “What was it like when you lift off for the first time in the shuttle?”, “What is it like to be weightless for that many days?” and “How do you go to the bathroom in the shuttle?” (
At the end of his presentation, Gutierrez shared these takeaways with his audience:
- Teamwork – organization before self
- Get the job done – whatever – wherever – however
- Constantly strive to get better – “second place is as good as last”
- Believe nothing is impossible
- For those things that are really important – never ever, ever give up
- Never forget where you came from
- Faith, family, country, and hard work
Lt. Col. Dennis A. Elbe
Public Affairs Officer
Pegasus Composite Squadron