Some former Scouts have experienced what might be considered the ultimate in high adventure. Roughly two-thirds of NASA’s career astronauts had been Scouts, resulting in most of NASA’s human space missions including at least one former Scout. Notably, 20 of the 24 men who flew to the Moon in 1968 to 1972 (on Apollo 8 and 10 to 17) had been Scouts, including 11 of the 12 men who walked on its surface.
Forty-one of those selected as NASA’s career astronauts are Eagle Scouts. Some have become legends, like Neil Armstrong, the first man to land a spacecraft on another world, and Jim Lovell, the commander of the ill-fated Apollo 13 mission who led his crew safely back to Earth. That legacy continues today where Eagle Scouts fly high as crew members and commanders of the International Space Station (ISS). Eagle Scouts Raja Chari and Kjell Lindgren were furthermore selected as commanders of the SpaceX Crew-3 and Crew-4 missions, respectively.
Looking further ahead, members of the Artemis Team of astronauts could become the first women and next men to walk on the Moon. While female Eagle Scouts have yet to be selected as astronauts, the Artemis Team includes astronauts Kayla Barron, Christina Koch, Jessica Meir, Kate Rubins, and Jessica Watkins, all of whom had been Girl Scouts. Chari and Lindgren are also Artemis Team members and thus candidates for lunar exploration.
Given the many astronauts who were Scouts, the list below is limited to the Eagle Scouts selected as career astronauts. Their status is listed as well as their spaceflight missions, where STS refers to the Space Transportation System, better known as the space shuttle. Meanwhile, Expedition (or Exp.) refers to a mission on the International Space Station (ISS).
Eagle Scout Astronauts: Status; Spaceflight Missions
Adamson, James C.: Former; STS-28, STS-43
Armstong, Neil A.: Deceased; Gemini 8, Apollo 11
Bagian, James P.: Former; STS-29, STS-40
Bluford, Guion S.: Former; STS-8, STS 61-A, STS-39, STS-53
Bowersox, Kenneth D.: Mgmt.; STS-50, STS-61, STS-73, STS-82, Exp. 6 (↑STS-113, ↓Soyuz)
Brady, Charles E.: Deceased; STS-78
Carr, Gerald P.: Deceased; Skylab 4
Carter, Manley L.: Deceased; STS-33
Chaffee, Roger B.: Deceased; Apollo 1 (perished within the capsule in a pre-launch test)
Chamitoff, Gregory E.: Former; Expedition 17/18 (↑STS-124, ↓STS-126), STS-134
Chari, Raja: Active; Expedition 66 (↑↓SpaceX Crew-3)
Covey, Richard O.: Former; STS-51-I, STS-26, STS-38, STS-61
Creighton, John O.: Former; STS-51-G, STS-36, STS-48
Duke, Charles M.: Former; Apollo 16
Eisele, Donn F.: Deceased; Apollo 7
Forrester, Patrick G.: Mgmt.; STS-105, STS-117, STS 128
Fossum, Michael E.: Former; STS-121, STS-124, Expedition 28/29 (↑↓Soyuz)
Fullerton, C. Gordon: Deceased; STS-3, STS-51-F
Gregory, William G.: Former; STS-67
Griggs, S. David: Deceased; Died in a plane crash prior to spaceflight
Hoffman, Jeffrey A.: Former; STS-51-D, STS-35, STS-46, STS-61, STS-75
Johnson, Gregory H.: Former; STS-123, STS-134
Jones, Thomas D.: Former; STS-59, STS-68, STS-80, STS-98
Lee, Mark C.: Former; STS-30, STS-47, STS-64, STS-82
Lind, Don L.: Former; STS-51-B
Lindgren, Kjell N.: Active; Expedition 44/45 (↑↓Soyuz), Exp. 67 (↑↓SpaceX Crew-4)
Lindsey, Steven W.: Former; STS-95, STS-104, STS-121, STS-133
Lovell, James A.: Former; Gemini 7, Gemini 12, Apollo 8, Apollo 13
McCool, William C.: Deceased; STS-107 (in which the shuttle was destroyed upon reentry)
McCulley, Michael J.: Former; STS-34
O’Leary, Brian T.: Deceased; Resigned in 1968 after cancellation of human Mars mission plans
Onizuka, Ellison S.: Deceased; STS-51-C, STS-51-L (in which the shuttle was destroyed at launch)
Oswald, Stephen S.: Former; STS-42, STS-56, STS-67
Parazynski, Scott E.: Former; STS-66, STS-86, STS-95, STS-100, STS-120
Pettit, Donald R.: Active; Exp. 6 (↑STS-113, ↓Soyuz), STS-126, Exp. 30/31 (↑↓Soyuz)
Reightler, Kenneth S.: Former; STS-48, STS-60
Searfoss, Richard A.: Deceased; STS-58, STS-76, STS-90
See, Elliot M.: Deceased; Died in a plane crash prior to spaceflight
Tanner, Joseph R.: Former; STS-66, STS-82, STS-97, STS-115
Truly, Richard H.: Former; STS-2, STS-8
Walker, David M.: Deceased; STS-51-A, STS-30, STS-53, STS-69
The 2021 class of astronaut candidates includes two Eagle Scouts, Jack Hathaway and Christopher L. Williams, who will undergo a couple years of NASA training before they are certified as astronauts and become eligible for spaceflight assignments. They’ll have assignments on the ground while waiting for their opportunities to soar.
While there are exceptions, most of today’s astronauts have one of two backgrounds: (1) they are military pilots with a master’s degree in engineering or another STEM field or (2) they have a doctoral degree in science, engineering, or medicine. In the first case, it is particularly valuable to have test pilot experience. Regardless of the path you might take, another good skill to have is scuba diving because that is how astronauts practice space walking. Learning other languages, such as Russian, is helpful because of NASA’s international partnerships. Even if you do not become a military pilot, learning how to fly can still help you get to space.
In the graphic below, you can see the educational background of the 15 Eagle Scouts selected as career astronauts in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, where it is organized based on their earned highest degree(s).
That same set of 15 astronauts earned their Bachelor’s degrees at the following schools, where it can be seen that nine attended U.S. military academies, with seven of them at the U.S. Air Force Academy. All but one of the other six astronauts earned their Bachelor’s degrees from state universities.
Meanwhile, their advanced degrees were generally earned at state or private universities as can be seen in this graphic. A few earned multiple graduate degrees, where the extreme is Kjell Lindgren who has Master’s degrees in Cardiovascular Physiology, Health Informatics, and Public Health besides his doctoral degree in Medicine. By the way, he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the U.S. Air Force Academy. There are more paths than you might expect within NASA as well as the military. Note that test pilot training is not reflected in this graphic.