William C. McCool

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Willie McCool
William Cameron McCool.jpg
William McCool in August 2001
William Cameron Graham

(1961-09-23)September 23, 1961
DiedFebruary 1, 2003(2003-02-01) (aged 41)
Over Texas, U.S.
Space career
NASA astronaut
Rank Captain, USN
Time in space
15d 22h 20m
Selection NASA Group 16 (1996)
Missions STS-107
Mission insignia
STS-107 Flight Insignia.svg

William Cameron "Willie" McCool (born William Cameron Graham September 23, 1961 – February 1, 2003) was an American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, aeronautical engineer, and NASA astronaut, who was the pilot of Space Shuttle Columbia mission STS-107. He and the rest of the crew of STS-107 were killed when Columbia disintegrated during reentry into the atmosphere. [1] [2] McCool was posthumously awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. [3]


Early and personal life

McCool was born on September 23, 1961, in San Diego, California. His parents divorced when he was young, and in 1969 his mother married Barent McCool, a Naval aviator. [4] McCool was active in the Boy Scouts of America, where he became an Eagle Scout. [5] His favorite song was "Imagine" by John Lennon, which was played during the STS-107 mission. McCool's favorite band was Radiohead, and the song "Fake Plastic Trees" was played by Mission Control as a wake-up call. [6]

McCool died on February 1, 2003, when Space Shuttle Columbia broke up over the southern United States during reentry. He was survived by his wife, Lani, and their three sons. McCool is buried in Anacortes, Washington, where he lived at the time of his death. [2] [7]


Flight experience

McCool completed flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1986. He was assigned to Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, for initial EA-6B Prowler training. McCool's first operational tour was with Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 133 (VAQ-133), where he made two deployments aboard the aircraft carrier USS Coral Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and received designation as a wing-qualified landing signal officer (LSO). In November 1989, McCool was selected for the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School/Test Pilot School (TPS) Cooperative Education Program. [1]

After graduating from TPS in June 1992, McCool worked as a TA-4J and EA-6B test pilot in Flight Systems Department of Strike Aircraft Test Directorate at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. He was responsible for the management and conduct of a wide variety of projects, ranging from airframe fatigue life studies to numerous avionics upgrades. However, McCool's primary efforts were dedicated to flight test of the Advanced Capability (ADVCAP) EA-6B. Following his Patuxent River tour, McCool returned to Whidbey Island, and was assigned to Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 132 (VAQ-132) aboard the carrier USS Enterprise. He served as Administrative and Operations Officer with the squadron through their work-up cycle, receiving notice of his NASA selection while embarked on Enterprise for her final pre-deployment at sea period. [1]

McCool accumulated over 2,800 hours flight experience in 24 aircraft and over 400 carrier arrestments. [4]

NASA experience

Selected by NASA in April 1996, McCool reported to the Johnson Space Center the following August. [4] He completed two years of training and evaluation, and was qualified for flight assignment as a pilot. Initially assigned to the Computer Support Branch, McCool also served as technical assistant to the director of flight crew operations, and worked Shuttle cockpit upgrade issues for the Astronaut Office. [1]

Spaceflight experience

McCool was pilot of Space Shuttle mission STS-107, January 16 to February 1, 2003, logging 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space. The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. According to NASA, McCool said of the unique view he and his crewmates had from Columbia: [9] [10]

From our orbital vantage point, we observe an earth without borders, full of peace, beauty and magnificence, and we pray that humanity as a whole can imagine a borderless world as we see it and strive to live as one in peace.

William Cameron McCool, 29 January 2003 onboard Columbia

STS-107's mission ended abruptly on February 1, 2003, when Columbia disintegrated during re-entry, 16 minutes before scheduled landing. All seven crew members were killed.

McCool was posthumously awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (DDSM), and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor. [1]


Special honors


Commander William C. McCool School in Santa Rita, Guam McCoolSchoolGuam.JPG
Commander William C. McCool School in Santa Rita, Guam

See also

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