There are many famous and successful people who have called Clinton home. We need to celebrate their lives as well as all of their contributions.
Recently, former astronaut Dale Gardner, 65, died. He and two other astronauts have connections with Clinton. Gardner was honored this month in Time Magazine with a special obituary. He died in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Feb. 19 of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Capt. Gardner’s parents were Bill and Alice Gardner. Bill was a well-known civic leader in Clinton. The family moved to Savanna, Ill., in 1961 with Interstate Power Co. Dale graduated from high school there, and then the family moved to Clinton in 1968.
Gardner also was mentioned on a NBC news broadcast with Brian Williams recently, in relation to the movie “Gravity,” and Williams inserted the astronaut’s life in comparison with the theme of the movie. The 1984 shuttle mission salvaged two satellites that were stuck in the wrong orbits and brought them back to Earth.
After Gardner helped retrieve one of them, a Western Union communications satellite, he posed for a photo outside the shuttle with a “for sale” sign. According to his mother, Alice, who lives in Clinton, “Dale was the first to go outside of a space vehicle untethered, using a powered backpack.”
Dale Gardner spent two summers working in Clinton during his college years at the University of Illinois. He was an American hero and a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, from which he retired in 2012.
Gardner flew two shuttle missions, in 1983 and 1984. He logged 337 hours in space and 225 Earth orbits, and he went on two spacewalks totaling 12 hours. The 1983 mission, in the Challenger, was the first night launch and first night re-entry for the shuttle program. Delays in resuming the shuttle program (after Challenger was destroyed by a booster-rocket explosion in 1986, killing all seven astronauts aboard) caused an ebb in activities that led Capt. Gardner to return to the regular Navy, where he continued to excel.