Paul J. Weitz

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Paul J. Weitz
Paul Weitz.jpg
NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Deceased
Born (1932-07-25)July 25, 1932
Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Died October 22, 2017(2017-10-22) (aged 85)
Flagstaff, Arizona, U.S.
Other names
Paul Joseph Weitz
Other occupation
Naval aviator, test pilot
Penn State, B.S. 1954
NPS, M.S. 1964
Rank US-O6 insignia.svg Captain, USN
Time in space
33d 01h 13m
Selection 1966 NASA Group 5
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
1 hour 36 minutes
Missions Skylab 2, STS-6
Mission insignia
Skylab1-Patch.png Sts-6-patch.png
Retirement May 1994
Awards NASA Distinguished Service Medal.jpg Air Medal front.jpg

Paul Joseph Weitz (July 25, 1932 – October 22, 2017) was an American naval officer and aviator, aeronautical engineer, test pilot, and NASA astronaut, who flew into space twice. He was a member of the three-man crew who flew on Skylab 2, the first manned Skylab mission. He was also Commander of the STS-6 mission, the first of the Space Shuttle Challenger flights.


Paul J. Weitz was born in 1932 in Erie, Pennsylvania, United States. He went on to complete a master's degree in engineering and was a pilot in the Navy. He went on to be an astronaut that went in to space aboard Skylab and the Space Shuttle, later serving as a NASA official.[1]

Early years and education[edit]

Weitz was born in Erie, Pennsylvania, on July 25, 1932. He graduated from Harbor Creek High School in Harborcreek, Pennsylvania, in 1950.[2] The high school stadium was later named after him.[3] He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University in 1954.[3] While attending Penn State, he was a member of the Alpha Upsilon Chapter of Beta Theta Pi. Ten years later, he received a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.[2]

Flight experience[edit]

Weitz received his commission as an Ensign through the Naval ROTC program at Penn State. He served for one year at sea aboard a destroyer before going to flight training and was awarded his aviator wings in September 1956. He served in various naval aircraft squadrons until he was selected as an astronaut in 1966. He logged more than 7,700 hours flying time — 6,400 hours in jet aircraft.[2]

NASA career[edit]

Skylab 2 Commander Pete Conrad trims Weitz's hair in Skylab's crew quarters
Paul J. Weitz, (left) Charles "Pete" Conrad Jr. (middle); and Joseph P. Kerwin (right); America's first space station crew would spend 28 days in space

In April 1966, Weitz was one of 19 men selected by NASA for Astronaut Group 5. He served as Pilot on the crew of Skylab 2 (SL-2), which launched on May 25 and splashed down on June 22, 1973. SL-2 was the first manned Skylab mission. The mission lasted for 28-days, a record at the time.[2] Weitz and his two crewmates, Pete Conrad and Joseph P. Kerwin, performed extensive and unprecedented repairs to serious damage the unmanned Skylab sustained during its launch, salvaging the entire Skylab mission. Weitz logged two hours and 11 minutes of EVA during the mission.[2] If NASA followed typical crew rotations, Weitz may have been assigned as the Command Module Pilot for the canceled Apollo 20 mission.[4]

In the 1976 Weitz retired from NASA and went back the Navy, but he returned to NASA to fly the maiden spaceflight of the Challenger at over 50 years old.[5]

Weitz and Donald H. Peterson (right) aboard space shuttle Challenger during the STS-6 mission

Weitz was spacecraft commander on the crew of STS-6, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on April 4, 1983. This was the maiden voyage of the orbiter Challenger. During the mission, the crew conducted numerous experiments in materials processing, recorded lightning activities, deployed IUS/TDRS-A, conducted extravehicular activity while testing a variety of support systems and equipment in preparation for future space walks, and also carried three Getaway Specials. Mission duration was 120 hours before Challenger landed on a concrete runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on April 9, 1983. With the completion of this flight, Weitz logged a total of 793 hours in space.[2]

Weitz was Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center when he retired from NASA in May 1994.[2]

Personal life and death[edit]

Weitz married the former Suzanne M. Berry of Harborcreek, Pennsylvania. They had two children — Matthew, and Cynthia.[2]

Hunting and fishing were among his hobbies.[2]

After retiring, Weitz lived in Arizona until his death on October 22, 2017 from myelodysplastic syndrome at the age of 85.[6][7][3]


Awards and honors[edit]

Awarded the:

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration website

  1. ^ Rincon, Paul (2017-10-24). "First Challenger shuttle commander dies". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-10-27. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Paul J. Weitz". NASA JSC. Retrieved May 30, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c Bruce, David (October 24, 2017). "Erie County Astronaut Paul Weitz Dies at 85". Aviation Pros. Retrieved January 9, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Apollo 18 through 20 - The Cancelled Missions", Dr. David R. Williams, NASA, accessed January 9, 2018.
  5. ^ "Challenger, Skylab astronaut Paul Weitz dies at 85". WDIV. 2017-10-24. Archived from the original on 2017-10-27. Retrieved 2017-10-26. 
  6. ^ Bruce, David (Oct 23, 2017). "Erie County astronaut Paul Weitz dies at 85". Retrieved Oct 23, 2017. 
  7. ^ Schudel, Matt (October 24, 2017). "Paul Weitz, astronaut who helped repair Skylab and commanded space shuttle, dies at 85". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2017-10-25. Retrieved October 25, 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Canales, Christina (2017-10-25). "Skylab, Shuttle Astronaut Paul Weitz Dies at 85". NASA. Retrieved 2017-10-26. 
  9. ^ "Past Goddard Trophy Winners". National Space Club web site. National Space Club. 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-02-21. Retrieved 2009-02-07. 

External links[edit]