John E. Blaha

John Blaha

MS astronautics ’66
Born: 1942
Missions: STS-29, 33, 43, 58, 79, 81

John Blaha was selected as an astronaut in 1980 and went on to log 161 days in space on five missions. 

John Blaha

John E. Blaha NASA Bio

Among them, he commanded STS-58 Columbia in 1993, which management recognized as NASA’s most successful and efficient Spacelab flight ever flown. On the 14-day flight, crew members – a group that also included Boilermaker astronaut David Wolf – conducted medical experiments on themselves and 48 rats, expanding our knowledge of human and animal physiology. 

From September 1996 to January 1997, Blaha conducted material science, fluid science and life science research aboard the Russian space station Mir. During his time on Mir, Blaha sent a special message via satellite to Purdue’s graduates – including his daughter, Carolyn, who was graduating from the School of Science – that was played during the December 1996 commencement ceremony. 

Also a graduate of the United States Air Force Academy, Blaha served as a USAF fighter pilot, test pilot and combat pilot, completing 361 combat missions in Vietnam and logging more than 7,000 hours of flying time. He enrolled at Purdue in 1965 as part of a cooperative graduate program with the Air Force Academy designed for academy graduates with an interest in astronautics. He is one of seven graduates of the program who went on to become astronauts, joining Roy Bridges Jr. (Blaha’s Purdue roommate), John Casper, Richard Covey, Guy Gardner, Gary Payton and Loren Shriver.