Growing up in Levittown, Jay C. Buckey marveled as the Apollo missions put men on the moon.
When his next-door neighbor came home from work and showed him sketches of lunar modules, part of his job at Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corp. in Bethpage, it made Buckey realize that ordinary people could be involved in space exploration. That's just what he did.
Buckey, 57, a physician who flew aboard the space shuttle Columbia as a payload specialist in 1998, was honored Monday as one of three inductees into the Long Island Air & Space Hall of Fame at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City.
"I'm really humbled to join this impressive group of people," Buckey said, pointing to his plaque sitting among those of 13 other famous Long Islanders who have contributed to advancing aeronautics. "Long Island has an impressive aviation and space history."
He joins a list of notables who paved the way in flight and gave Long Island the nickname "the cradle of aviation." Among them are Glenn Curtiss, an aviation pioneer who made the first long-distance flight in the United States; Charles Lindbergh, who flew the first solo transatlantic flight out of Roosevelt Field; and Leroy Grumman, one of the founders of the aircraft manufacturer now merged into Northrop Grumman Corp.
Buckey, who attended W.T. Clarke High School in Westbury, studied the physiology of space in college and earned his medical degree from what is now the Weill Cornell Medical College in 1981. In 1998, he spent 16 days aboard Columbia for its Neurolab mission.
His findings led him to publish "Space Physiology," a handbook to help physicians and astronauts maintain crew members' health in space. He teaches at the University of Dartmouth, in Hanover, N.H., where he also resides.
Also inducted yesterday were aviators Betty H. Gillies and F. Trubee Davison.
Gillies, from Syosset, was a leading advocate of female pilots and was a founder of the Ninety-Nines, the international organization of women pilots, in 1929. She later became the first pilot to qualify for the Women's Auxiliary Ferry Squadron. She died in 1998.
"My grandmother was part of the golden age of aviation on Long Island and I know she loved it," said Glen Gillies of San Diego, who accepted her grandmother's award.
Davison, who lived in Locust Valley, is credited with starting what would later become the Naval Air Reserve, when, in 1916, he banded with a group of fellow Yale students to found the "First Yale Unit." Injured during a training incident, he never saw combat, but later took on a variety of roles, including state assemblyman, president of the American Museum of Natural History and assistant director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Brothers Dan and George Davison accepted the award on behalf of their late grandfather, who died in 1974. This is the fifth year of inductions into the hall of fame.
"This is another outstanding group of people who grew up on Long Island and played role in aviation history," said Andrew Parton, executive director of the museum. "If you are a kid on Long Island and can see someone like yourself, hopefully it will inspire."