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Watch this space: At least two-thirds of astronauts were Scouts

Updated, July 20, 2016

Scouting helps young people achieve new heights, and sometimes those heights are really, really high.

Like, space high.

At least two-thirds of the pilots and scientists selected as astronauts since 1959 were Scouts. This stat comes as no surprise to those of us involved in the program; we know how well Scouting prepares young men and women for life and high-flying careers.

But Kathy, a Scouter who emailed me last week, says that when recruiting new Scouts, statistics like these are worth more than a rock from the surface of the moon. She writes:

Hey Bryan,

Could you get the current info on how many Eagle Scouts are astronauts? I love this info when recruiting new Scouts as it makes such an impact as to the validity of the BSA program and its values.

Thanks, Kathy

Great question. The latest numbers I could find say this: Of the 312 pilots and scientists selected as astronauts since 1959, at least 207 have been identified as having been Scouts or active in Scouting. That list includes 39 Eagle Scouts, 25 Life Scouts, 14 Star Scouts, 26 First Class Scouts, 17 Second Class Scouts, 13 Tenderfoot Scouts, three Explorers, 25 Cub Scouts, 10 Webelos Scouts, one King’s Scout, two Wolf Scouts and 32 with unknown ranks, including 27 who were Girl Scouts.

Perhaps a better picture comes if we look exclusively at space shuttle missions, which began in 1981 and ended in 2011. Half of those missions (67 of 135) included at least one Eagle Scout. (Note that some Eagle Scouts took multiple space shuttle trips.)

This number doesn’t include Eagle Scouts who took trips to the International Space Station aboard Russian Soyuz rockets. The most recent example was Eagle Scout Kjell Lindgren, who was on the International Space Station from July to December 2015.

And sisters of Boy Scouts, rejoice: Former Girl Scouts flew on one-third of space shuttle missions. That includes former Girl Scout Eileen Collins, the first female space shuttle commander.

What’s the takeaway? While we can’t say being a Scout will guarantee a career with NASA, we do know that Scouting’s focus on STEM and its instillment of leadership skills prepared these astronauts for a life spent exploring the cosmos. Just think what the program can do for your son or daughter.

Resources for Scout leaders

These NASA-created posters below are in the Public Domain and are not protected by copyright. Permission is not required for duplication for non-commercial use. They’re yours to use at Scout offices, camps, events and award ceremonies.

Click to view high-res:

721871main_EaglesSoarHighhires 721879main_EagleAstronautshires 721881main_OnwardUpwardhires 721883main_WingsAbovehires 721885main_HighAdventurehires

721862main_GirlScoutAstronautshires

Related blog posts

Eagle Scout Astronomer gets a glimpse at rare mirror-firing for the Giant Magellan Telescope

How to request congratulatory letters for your Eagle Scout

An Eagle Scout and astronaut fact-checks the film ‘Gravity’

17 Comments on Watch this space: At least two-thirds of astronauts were Scouts

  1. Once they started collecting patches they just could not stop.

    • Ha, good!

  2. Is there a contact at NASA where we could buy printed copies of these? Would like to get one or two and frame them for our scout room.

    • Hi Mike,

      One suggestion would be to find a local print shop and print them yourself. They’re free to use without attribution for noncommercial use.

      • H. David Pendleton // October 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm // Reply

        Some are downloadable from NESA at http://www.nesa.org/posters.html

    • These posters are not available from NASA other than as downloads, where I work for NASA and created the posters with a graphic artist colleague. NASA only printed them for display (e.g., at Scout events) and not for distribution or sale. I’m an Eagle Scout, former summer camp counselor, former Scoutmaster, etc. and have used the posters when representing NASA at national, regional, and local Scout events. As an aside, readers may be interested in the related Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/NASAbsa, which I administer. And as a quick introduction, I work on microgravity studies of flames, e.g., conducted on the space station and previously on the space shuttle.

  3. This is just so AWESOME!!!

    • I completely agree… I knew 11 of the 12 who walked on the moon had been Scouts… awesome in its own right… it’s great to see the rest of these stats, and to see that so many from BSA & GSA have flown so high! Thank you for sharing! Mike

  4. This is an excellent strategy while doing parent briefings for school night round ups. It’s interesting to note the facial expressions of the parents in the room when speaking about the leadership qualities of NASA and Boy Scouts. Some folks have no idea, and it’s a great speaking point to let them know that Neil Armstrong started out right where their son is today, and his parents also signed an application many years ago, to give their son a chance at something new.

  5. Is there any chance that the BSA can print these posters & sell them through Scoutstuff.org? They would make great recruiting tools.

  6. A little off topic. Is there going to be a change in the Eagle required and elective merit badge requirements? Will the Eagle required remain 12 and the elective remain 9 as off January 2014?

    • H. David Pendleton // October 22, 2013 at 9:05 am // Reply

      Still 21 MBs for Eagle after 1 January 2014, but Cooking is now also a required MB.

  7. my dream is become an astronauts

  8. Christopher WB Buffalo Patrol // October 19, 2014 at 1:17 pm // Reply

    Bryan, Without question this was an excellent and inspiring post last year! Upon additional reflection, however, I would go even further by encouraging BSA to consider developing and introducting a “Space Scout” Co-Ed progam initiative for the 21st Century (Cadettes ages 9-10, Observers ages 11-13, and Explorers ages 14-20). One that would equally encompass traditional scout skills, character development, and fitness while encouraging a greater and deeper appreciation of STEM — its primary focus. Program Partners: NASA, NOAA Corps, U.S. Navy, & U.S. Air Force. Case-In-Point: Aspiring astronaut and Baton Rouge, Louisanna teen Alyssa Carson comes to mind. http://www.cbs.com/shows/cbs_this_morning/video/ceyZfMDuEcDWpfnzelWbR_tQidWYonDr/teen-determined-to-be-the-first-on-mission-to-mars/

  9. I have one of these from years ago. It’s very impressive to think about how many Scouts, both Boys & Girls, have been involved in the space program.

  10. Frank Hollinger // October 3, 2015 at 6:00 am // Reply

    I wonder how many of the support teams were scouts. I would guess that percentage is equally impressive.

    • I work for NASA on microgravity combustion experiments and the small ground team for the 2012 Structure & Liftoff In Combustion Experiment (SLICE) included a couple of Eagle Scouts, including myself and our imaging (i.e., data) manager. As the Project Scientist and a Co-Investigator, I verbally directed Eagle Scout astronaut Don Pettit in conducting the experiment, where you can see an example at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2oqnhRSpmto. I had also trained Eagle Scout astronaut Mike Fossum, who is also a Scoutmaster. I had expected Fossum to conduct my experiment, but he returned to Earth before my experiment got its turn in the test facility.

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