Ohio Honors Citizen Astronaut Candidate


Lieutenant Colonel Steve Heck (USAF-ret.) is being honored by the State of Ohio for his work with Citizens in Space, a non-profit project that promotes citizen science and citizen space exploration.

Lt. Col. Heck is one of 15 veterans who will be inducted into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame today by Governor John Kasich in a ceremony at the National Museum of the US Air Force here in Dayton. "It's a great honor to be among this select group of veterans honored for their contributions to the State of Ohio," Heck said. "I am grateful to the governor and State of Ohio for recognizing the importance of the Citizens in Space program and proud to receive this recognition for the role I have played in it."

As an Air Force officer, Steve Heck flew the B-52 Stratofortress and KC-10 Extender, setting two world records in the KC-10 aircraft. After retirement, he became an elementary-, middle-, and high-school science teacher in Milford, Ohio.

In 2009, Steve Heck was selected as an astronaut candidate for Teachers in Space, a project of the United States Rocket Academy. In 2011, the program was expanded to include a broad range of citizen scientists and renamed Citizens in Space.

Steve Heck is one of three astronaut candidates selected by the United States Rocket Academy to fly on the Lynx, a suborbital rocketship being built by XCOR Aerospace in Mojave, California. The United States Rocket Academy has acquired an initial contract for 10 flights on the Lynx and plans to acquire additional flights on the Lynx and other vehicles in the future.

Heck has served the program as an instructor as well as an astronaut candidate, helping to develop a suborbital astronaut training curriculum for Citizens in Space, which will select seven additional astronaut candidates in the next 12-18 months.

"I'm pleased to be using my Air Force experience to help shape this program, which is paving the way for the next generation of American astronauts," Heck said. "In the next decade, thousands of Americans will fly in space on vehicles like the Lynx, through programs like Citizens in Space. I am proud to help form the training that will ensure citizen astronauts are able to fly safely and accomplish their missions effectively.

"The astronauts selected for Citizens in Space will be busy during their flights, operating and supervising up to a dozen experiments. Preflight training is therefore crucial," Heck said. The XCOR Lynx is scheduled to roll out in 2013, followed by about a year of flight tests. If testing goes according to plan, Lynx will enter operational service in early 2014. "Development of the Lynx is proceeding at a rapid pace," Heck said. "The challenge for Citizens in Space is to make sure we're ready. We accept the challenge."

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