Photo via Reuters
Space shuttle Discovery Mission Specialist Charles Camarda is shown after the crew arrived for Mission STS-114 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, July 9, 2005.

In conjunction with the Greater Astoria Historical Society, TimesLedger Newspapers presents noteworthy events in the borough’s history.

Born on May 8, 1952, and raised in Ozone Park, Charles “Charlie” Camarda is an aerospace engineer and retired NASA astronaut who flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-114. He has also served as the Director of Engineering at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and as a Senior Advisor at their Langley Research Center.

Dr. Camarda has a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from Virginia Tech and holds seven patents in his field of expertise.

The Queens native graduated from Archbishop Molloy High School in 1970. As a child growing up in the 1960s, Camarda developed an interest in spaceflight, recalling “It was a time when spaceflight was so intriguing. It was natural for me to want to be an astronaut, to dream of being an astronaut.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1974, the future astronaut began work for NASA as a research scientist.

Before taking flight in the Space Shuttle, the promising young researcher worked on developing Shuttle components and led several testing facilities for the space program. After more than 20 years developing technology for NASA, however, he still held on to his boyhood dreams. He decided to make a career change, and was named a mission specialist in 1996.

Camarda had to wait nearly 10 years to take flight, however. While he selected as a backup crew member for a 2003 expedition to the International Space Station, he did not travel to space until 2005 on mission STS-114 on the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Shuttle Discovery crew pose for a photograph in this NASA handout photo taken in March 2004. Seated (from L-R): Pilot James Kelly, Mission Specialist Wendy Lawrence and Commander Eileen Collins. Standing (from L-R): Mission Specialists Stephen Robinson, Andrew Thomas, Charles Camarda and Soichi Noguchi. (Photo via Reuters)

The astronaut from Queens spent nearly two weeks in space on the first flight after the tragic loss of the Columbia two years earlier. During his only Space Shuttle flight, as part of a long tradition of playing music to astronauts, NASA played “What a Wonderful World” by fellow Queens resident Louis Armstrong to the dreamer from Ozone Park.

Shuttle Discovery mission specialist Charles Camarda waves from the mid deck of the orbiter, surrounded by equipment to be used by spacewalkers Stephen Robinson and Soichi Noguchi during their spacewalk July 30, 2005. (REUTERS/NASA TV RJC/CCK)

During the mission, Camarda and his fellow crew members delivered supplied and science equipment to the International Space Station, and in light of the Columbia disaster, they tested flight safety procedures and ways to inspect and repair their vehicle. Dr. Camarda continued to serve in the space program following his return from his extraterrestrial adventure.

More recently, he has served as Director of Engineering at the Johnson Space Center and as a Senior Advisor for Innovation. The astronaut also returned to his alma mater, now the New York University Tandon School of Engineering, to teach a course on innovative engineering, and in 2017 was inducted into the Long Island Air & Space Hall of Fame.

Commenting on the dangers of his work, he shared “I’ve always been aware of the risks. I think every one of us understands that spaceflight is risky. It’s important that we take those risks for the future of space and for the future of the development of technology to help us on Earth.”

For more information, call the Greater Astoria Historical Society at 718-278-0700 or www.astorialic.org.


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