Senior NASA Astronaut Joe H. Engle Retires
SPACE CENTER, Houston (AP) _ Veteran shuttle commander Joe H. Engle has resigned from NASA, becoming the 10th experienced astronaut to leave the agency since the Challenger accident grounded America’s manned space fleet.
Engle, a 54-year-old Air Force colonel, officially left the agency last Friday, and NASA announced the resignation Tuesday.
A NASA spokesman said that Engle was required to retire from the military after completing 30 years of service and then chose also to leave NASA.
Engle was commander of two shuttle missions, including a dramatic flight in which a disabled communications satellite was plucked from orbit, repaired aboard the shuttle and then redeployed into orbit.
In the last 12 months, the number in the astronaut corps has dropped from 101 to 85. Ten have resigned or been reassigned. Five of the seven crew members killed in the Jan. 28 Challenger explosion were astronauts, and another astronaut died last summer in a plane crash.
A NASA source said that economics may have played a role in Engle’s resignation from the space agency. Under a federal rule, he would not be eligible to receive full retirement entitlements from the Air Force if he had accepted a NASA civil service position. Remaining an astronaut would have resulted in a ″considerable″ loss of income, according to the source, who spoke only on condition that he not be identified.
Engle did not answer the phone Tuesday at his home or office.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration announcement said Engle has been appointed by the governor of Kansas and the Secretary of the Air Force to serve as an adviser to the Kansas Air National Guard. Engle, however, will continue to live in the Houston area and will work privately as an aerospace consultant.