20% of today’s astronaut graduating class are Eagle Scouts

A photo of NASA astronaut graduates
Eagle Scouts Jack Hathaway and Christopher L. Williams (front row fourth and fifth from left) are part of NASA's most recent graduating class of astronauts.

Graduating as a NASA astronaut is a long, challenging process that requires excellent planning, leadership and problem-solving skills.

It’s no surprise, then, that it would be the perfect task for an Eagle Scout.

Of the ten NASA candidates graduating today, two are Eagle Scouts. It’s the third-highest percentage of Eagles ever, ranking behind only the classes of 1962 (33.3%) and 1969 (28.6%), and tying with the class of 1978.

Including today’s class, 12% of those selected as career astronauts are Eagle Scouts.

(Thanks to Dennis P. Stocker, of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, for providing us with this data.)

As astronauts, the members of this class (considered the 2021 class because it was announced in December 2021) will be eligible for spaceflight assignments, including assignments to the International Space Station, future commercial destinations, missions to the Moon and, eventually, missions to Mars.

The graduation ceremony will be streamed live on NASA TV at 10:30 a.m. Eastern today, March 5, 2024.

Meet the Eagle Scout graduates

Jack Hathaway, commander, U.S. Navy, is a native of Connecticut. He earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and history from the U.S. Naval Academy and completed graduate studies at Cranfield University in England and the U.S. Naval War College.

A naval aviator, Hathaway flew and deployed with Navy’s Strike Fighter Squadron 14 aboard the USS Nimitz and Strike Fighter Squadron 136 aboard the USS Truman.

He graduated from Empire Test Pilots’ School in Wiltshire, England, supported the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, and before his selection as an astronaut candidate was selected to command Strike Fighter Squadron 81.

He has more than 2,500 flight hours in 30 types of aircraft, more than 500 carrier arrested landings, and flew 39 combat missions.

Hathaway earned the rank of Eagle Scout from Troop 186 in South Windsor, Connecticut in 2000.

Christopher Williams grew up in Potomac, Maryland. He graduated from Stanford University with a bachelor’s degree in physics and a doctorate in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where his research was in astrophysics.

Williams is a board-certified medical physicist, completing his residency training at Harvard Medical School in Boston, before joining the faculty as a clinical physicist and researcher. Before his selection as an astronaut candidate, he worked as a medical physicist in the Radiation Oncology Department at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

He was the lead physicist for the institute’s MRI-guided adaptive radiation therapy program. His research focused on developing image guidance techniques for cancer treatments.

Williams earned the rank of Eagle Scout from Troop 773 in Potomac, Maryland, 2001.

A photo of Eagle Scouts Jack Hathaway and Christopher L. Williams
Hathaway, left, and Williams

Scouting and NASA

The BSA has produced a significant number of astronauts over the years, so much so that NASA dedicated a page on its website to the topic.

Perhaps the most famous is Neil Armstrong, the first man to land a spacecraft on the moon. But before him, Jim Lovell, the commander of the Apollo 13 mission, was the first Eagle Scout to fly in space.

And Charlie Duke, the youngest person to walk on the moon, is an Eagle Scout.

In 1965, two astronauts literally explored space with an emblem representing the Space Exploration merit badge, at the time the BSA’s newest merit badge.

Eagle Scouts Raja Chari and Kjell Lindgren served as commanders of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-3 and Crew-4 missions, respectively, and as crew members on the International Space Station.

Images courtesy of NASA


About Aaron Derr 457 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.