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The Congressional Space Medal of Honor was authorized by the United States Congress in 1969 to recognize "any astronaut who in the performance of his duties has distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind." The highest award given in NASA, it is awarded by the President of the United States in Congress's name on recommendations from the NASA Administrator. The award is a separate decoration from the Medal of Honor, which is a military award for extreme bravery and gallantry in combat.

Although the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is a civilian award of the United States government, it is authorized as a military decoration for display on U.S. military uniforms due to the prestige of the decoration. In such cases, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is worn as a ribbon following all United States Armed Forces decorations.

To be awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, an astronaut must perform feats of extraordinary accomplishment while participating in actual space flight under the authority of the National Aeronautics and Space Administrationmarker. Typically, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is awarded for scientific discoveries or actions of tremendous benefit to mankind. The decoration may also be awarded for extreme bravery during a space emergency or in preventing a major space disaster. The Congressional Space Medal of Honor may also be presented posthumously to those astronauts who die while performing a United States space mission, and as of 2008 all 17 astronauts killed on U.S. missions have been awarded the medal.

Recipients

As of 2006, 28 astronauts have been honored with the award. 17 were honored posthumously: 14 died in either the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster or the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and the other three died in the Apollo 1 fire. The * symbol indicates a posthumous award.

Photo Name Date Awarded by Notes Ref(s)
Armstrong Neil Armstrong 1978-10-01October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Apollo 11 (Commander of the first lunar landing)
Borman Frank Borman 1978-10-01October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Apollo 8 (Commander of the first lunar orbit)
Conrad Charles "Pete" Conrad 1978-10-01October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Skylab 2 (first Skylab Commander; responsible for salvaging the critically malfunctioning station)
Glenn John Glenn 1978-10-01October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Mercury-Atlas 6 (first American in orbit)
Grissom Virgil "Gus" Grissom* 1978-10-01October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Apollo 1 and Gemini 3 (Commander of the first manned Gemini)
Shepard Alan Shepard 1978-10-01October 1, 1978 Jimmy Carter Mercury-Redstone 3 (first American in space)
Young John W. Young 1981-05-19May 19, 1981 Ronald Reagan STS-1 (Commander of the first shuttle flight)
Stafford Thomas P. Stafford 1993-01-19January 19, 1993 George H. W. Bush Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (U. S. Commander)
Lovell James Lovell 1995-07-26July 26, 1995 Bill Clinton Apollo 13 (Commander of the ill-fated mission)
Lucid Shannon Lucid 1996-12-02December 2, 1996 Bill Clinton Longest female spaceflight (passed by Sunita Williams)
Chaffee Roger Chaffee* 1997-12-17December 17, 1997 Bill Clinton Died aboard Apollo 1
White Edward White* 1997-12-17December 17, 1997 Bill Clinton Apollo 1 and Gemini 4 (first U.S. space walk)
Shepherd William Shepherd 2003-01-15January 15, 2003 George W. Bush Expedition 1 (first ISS Commander)
Husband Rick Husband* 2004-02-03February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia)
McCool Willie McCool* 2004-02-03February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia)
Anderson Michael P. Anderson* 2004-02-03February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia)
Chawla Kalpana Chawla* 2004-02-03February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia)
Brown David M. Brown* 2004-02-03February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia)
Clark Laurel B. Clark* 2004-02-03February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia)
Ramon Ilan Ramon* 2004-02-03February 3, 2004 George W. Bush STS-107 (died aboard Columbia, only non-U.S. citizen recipient)
Scobee Dick Scobee* 2004-07-23July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger)
Smith Michael Smith* 2004-07-23July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger)
Resnik Judith Resnik* 2004-07-23July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger)
McNair Ronald McNair* 2004-07-23July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger)
Onizuka Ellison Onizuka* 2004-07-23July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger)
Jarvis Greg Jarvis* 2004-07-23July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger)
McAuliffe Christa McAuliffe* 2004-07-23July 23, 2004 George W. Bush STS-51-L (died aboard Challenger, teacher)
Crippen Robert Crippen 2006-04-26April 26, 2006 George W. Bush STS-1 (first shuttle flight, Pilot)


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