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MONDAY, JULY 23, 2007

Hall of Fame honors first U.S. woman in space

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) — The first American woman in space and a daredevil who was the first person to complete a solo balloon trip around the globe were among five people inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.

Sally Ride, 56, a California native, accepted the medallion signifying her induction Saturday in front of a crowd of about 1,000 at the Dayton Convention Center.

Ride became the first U.S. woman in space when she flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. Ride returned to space aboard the Challenger in 1984 and served on the board that investigated the 1986 Challenger accident.

“I had a chance to float around weightless for a week ... I got to float over to the window and take a look at the world below, a very breathtaking view,” she said.

Ride was introduced by former astronaut Robert Crippen, who commanded Ride’s flights.

“The demands placed on her as the first woman to fly in space for the United States were mind-boggling,” said Crippen, who described Ride as a team player.

Ride become interested in space at an early age and recalled her excitement in 1969 when she watched astronaut Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon.

Steve Fossett, who in 2002 became the first person to circle the planet in a solo balloon and in 2005 the first to fly a plane solo around the world without refueling, said he was grateful for the induction but plans to add more records to his list.

“I’m hoping you didn’t give me this award because you think my career is complete, because I’m not done,” said Fossett, who also claims along with a co-pilot to have set a world glider altitude record of 50,671 feet during a flight in August over the Andes Mountains.

Fossett, 63, of Beaver Creek, Colo., said he plans to go to Argentina in November in an effort to break another glider record.

“You may ask, what’s the secret of flying solo? The secret is a great support team,” Fossett said, thanking the ground team.

Walter Boyne, historian, author and former director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum, was the first inductee enshrined at the ceremony.

Boyne, 77, joined the Air Force in 1951, flew bombers and was a nuclear test pilot. He retired after serving in Vietnam and in 1974 joined the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., as an assistant curator, eventually becoming director. Since then he has written more than 500 articles, 28 nonfiction books and four novels, all aviation-related.

Also among the inductees is 97-year-old Evelyn Bryan Johnson, who took up flying in 1944 while running her husband’s laundry business during his World War II military service.

Mama Bird

Johnson, of Morristown, Tenn., began giving flying lessons in 1947. Known as Mama Bird to her students, she is recognized for logging more flight hours — 60,000-plus — training more pilots, and giving more Federal Aviation Administration exams than any other living pilot.

The other inductee is Frederick Smith, a former Marine pilot and founder of air freight giant FedEx. Smith, 62, of Memphis, Tenn., flew crop dusters at age 15 and during the Vietnam War flew more than 200 missions with the Marines. In 1971, he founded Federal Express, which today is a $32 billion, 250,000-employee business with service in more than 220 countries.

The hall was founded in 1962 in Dayton, the hometown of the Wright brothers, and later established by Congress. Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first to be enshrined.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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