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3 fly into LI Air & Space Hall of Fame

William Sheperd, formerly of Babylon and first commander

William Sheperd, formerly of Babylon and first commander of International Space Station, is in inducted into the Long Island Air and Space Hall of Fame at the Cradle of Aviation museum in Garden City. (May 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

They flew into history -- a space station commander, a scientist and a journalist -- and landed Monday at the Long Island Air & Space Hall of Fame.

At the Cradle of Aviation Museum, aerospace and education officials toasted Capt. William Shepherd, who grew up in Babylon and led the first team into the International Space Station in 2000-01; Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, who made the world's first "blind flight" at Mitchel Field by navigating only by instruments; and Harriet Quimby, the first woman in the United States with a pilot's license after learning to fly in Mineola.

"We all marvel at the technology and engineering, but we're inspired by the people," said Andrew Parton, executive director of the Garden City museum.

There was Quimby, a reporter whose classes at the Moisant Aviation School inspired girls to fly.

"In those days, nobody knew if it was a 'man's sport,' " said Gia Bradley Koontz, an aviation historian who represented Quimby at the induction.

In 1912, the year after getting her license, Quimby became the first woman to fly solo across the English Channel, later writing, "A crowd of fishermen . . . came rushing from all directions toward me. They were congratulating themselves that the first woman to cross in an aeroplane had landed on their fishing beach."

Then in 1929 at the Army's Mitchel Field, which is now the Cradle's home, engineer and test pilot Doolittle flew a set course under a fabric hood covering his cockpit. This test led to aircraft that could safely fly in bad weather and at night.

Doolittle also developed a better aviation fuel and was a World War II hero for leading the first air raid on Japan, but his granddaughter said he was most proud of his blind flight.

"That changed the course of everything," Jonna Doolittle Hoppes said at the museum.

Shepherd put his imprint on the space station, as about 100 seventh graders learned during an hour with him at the museum. The former Navy SEAL and shuttle astronaut lived in space with two cosmonauts from October 2000 to March 2001, hooking up all the necessary systems.

"How did it feel when you came back?" asked one of the students, all from William Paca Middle School in Mastic Beach.

"My sense of how much something weighed had changed," he replied. "If I picked a coffee cup up, it really felt like it weighed eight pounds."

Later, Shepherd said the day felt like a "retrospective." He voiced a hint of sadness about the space shuttles retiring, scattering the know-how and the "mojo" behind the space program: "We're about to put that in the bin and we're not sure what's next."

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