NASA Astronaut Group 6

Astronaut Group 6 (the 'XS-11') was a group of eleven astronauts announced by NASA on August 11, 1967, the second group of scientist-astronauts.

XS-11 (The Excess Eleven)
Group 6 astronauts. Back row, L-R: Henize, England, Holmquest, Musgrave, Lenoir. Front row, L-R: Chapman, Parker, Thornton, Llewellyn. Flanking the group are Allen (left) and O'Leary (right)
Year selected1967
Number selected11

Although Director of Flight Crew Operations Deke Slayton planned to hire 20 to 30 new scientist-astronauts, he did not expect any to fly because of a surplus of astronauts amid the looming dearth of post-Apollo program funding, exemplified by the concomitant devolution of the Apollo Applications Program into the Skylab Program. NASA found that only 11 of the 923 applicants were qualified, and hired all.

When the group reported to the Manned Spacecraft Center, Slayton told them they were hired because the government forced NASA to, "but we don't have a job for you, not any of you". He offered to accept their resignations, and promised ground assignments if they did not quit, but warned them to not "fool" themselves that they would fly in space. Consequently, the men named themselves the "XS-11", or "Excess Eleven".[1]

Assignments for the group were further delayed by the requirement to complete a full year of Air Force Undergraduate Pilot Training to become qualified as jet pilots like the Group 4 scientists before them; however, unlike the previous scientist-astronaut group, none of the selectees had previous piloting experience.[1]

While O'Leary was chosen due to his professional expertise in anticipation of the proposed manned mission to Mars then tentatively envisaged for the mid-1980s, he objected to the hazards of flight training and resigned from the Astronaut Corps in April 1968. After "harboring qualms" about his ability to complete the flight training, Anthony Llewellyn became the second member of the group to resign in August 1968.[2]

After completing flight training, five members received ground assignments as support crew members in the Apollo program. Chapman was assigned to Apollo 14 and Apollo 16; Parker was assigned to Apollo 15 and Apollo 17; England was assigned to Apollo 13 and Apollo 16; and Henize and Allen were assigned to Apollo 15. Musgrave (who cultivated a notable passion for flying, eventually accumulating over 17,700 hours in 160 different types of civilian and military aircraft) and Lenoir were the first members of the group to secure potential flight assignments as backup Science Pilots in the Skylab Program.

Chapman and Holmquest left the program in the early 1970s due to the paucity of flight opportunities. England transferred to the United States Geological Survey in 1972 before rejoining the Astronaut Corps for a second nine-year stint in 1979. The requirement for scientists to be trained as jet pilots was eventually lifted with the creation of the Mission Specialist position in the Shuttle Program. The seven members of Group 6 who stayed with the program after Apollo went on to form the core of early Shuttle Mission Specialists, accomplishing a total of 15 flights.

Group members

STS-5 Columbia — November 1982 — Mission specialist — SBS-C and Anik C-3 satellite deployment mission[3]
STS-51-A Discovery — November 1984 — Mission specialist — Anik D-2 and Syncom IV-1 satellite deployment; Westar 6 and Palapa B2 satellite retrieval mission[3]
Served on Apollo support crews as mission scientist before resigning from NASA in July 1972 due to lack of spaceflight opportunities. First Australian American to be selected as an astronaut.[4]
STS-51-F Challenger — July 1985 — Mission specialist — Spacelab mission[5]
Transferred to the U.S. Geological Survey in 1972 before rejoining NASA in 1979.
STS-51-F Challenger — July 1985 — Mission specialist — Spacelab mission[6]
Completed initial training and work on Skylab habitability systems and medical experiments, but left NASA in September 1973 following two extended leaves (encompassing postdoctoral training in nuclear medicine at Baylor University) due to lack of spaceflight opportunities.[7]
STS-5 Columbia — November 1982 — Mission specialist — SBS-C and Anik C-3 satellite deployment mission[8]
Resigned from NASA in September 1968 due to difficulties with flight training; first Welsh American to be selected as an astronaut.[9]
STS-6 Challenger — April 1983 — Mission specialist — TDRS A satellite deployment mission[10]
STS-51-F Challenger — July 1985 — Mission specialist — Spacelab mission[10]
STS-33 Discovery — November 1989 — Mission specialist — United States Department of Defense mission; deployed USA-48 (Magnum 2)[10]
STS-44 Atlantis — November 1991 — Mission specialist — United States Department of Defense mission; deployed a DSP satellite[10]
STS-61 Endeavour — December 1993 — Payload commander — Hubble Space Telescope Servicing Mission # 1[10]
STS-80 Columbia — November 1996 — Mission specialist — Wake Shield Facility, ORFEUS-SPAS II, and EDO mission[10]
First of the group to serve on a backup crew (Skylab 2).
Resigned from NASA in April 1968 due to objections to perceived flight training hazards.
STS-9 Columbia — November 1983 — Mission specialist — Spacelab mission[12]
STS-35 Columbia — December 1990 — Mission specialist — Spacelab mission[12]
STS-8 Challenger — August 1983 — Mission specialist — INSAT-1B satellite deployment mission[13]
STS-51-B Challenger — April 1985 — Mission specialist — Spacelab mission[13]


  1. Hersch, Matthew H. (2012). Inventing the American Astronaut. Springer. ISBN 978-1-137-02529-6.
  2. Shayler David; Colin Burgess (2007). NASA's Scientist-Astronauts. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-0-387-49387-9.
  3. NASA (December 1993). "Astronaut Bio: Joseph P. Allen". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  4. NASA (December 1975). "Astronaut Bio: Philip Kenyon Chapman". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  5. NASA (August 1999). "Astronaut Bio: Anthony W. England". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  6. NASA (October 1993). "Astronaut Bio: Karl Henize". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  7. NASA (January 1995). "Astronaut Bio: D. Holmquest". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  8. NASA (January 1996). "Astronaut Bio: William B. Lenoir". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  9. NASA (September 1968). "Astronaut Bio: J. Llewellyn". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  10. NASA (August 1997). "Astronaut Bio: Story Musgrave". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  11. NASA (August 2011). "Astronaut Bio: Brian T. O'Leary". Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  12. NASA (December 2005). "Astronaut Bio: Robert Allan Ridley Parker". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
  13. NASA (May 1994). "Astronaut Bio: W.E. Thornton". Retrieved 2008-10-20.
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