NASA Astronaut Paul Weitz Passes Away at 85

In this June 1973 photograph, Skylab 2 pilot Paul J. Weitz operates the control and display console of the Apollo Telescope Mount solar observatory. (Credit: NASA)

Skylab and space shuttle astronaut Paul J. Weitz has passed away from cancer. He was 85.

Weitz, who served in the United States Navy and retired as a captain in 1976, was one of the 19 astronauts selected by NASA in April 1966. His NASA career lasted 28 years and included two space flights.

Weitz was part of the first Skylab crew along with commander Pete Conrad and science-pilot Joe Kerwin in 1973. The crew saved the station, which suffered damage after a solar wing deployed during launch. The wing was ripped away along with a heat shield; the other solar wing was pinned to the station by debris.

The crew deployed a solar shade to bring down temperatures inside the laboratory and freed the remaining solar wing during a space walk. Weitz and his crew mates splashed down on June 22, 1973 after a record 28 days in space.

Weitz commanded STS-6, the first flight of Space Shuttle Challenger, which launched on April 4, 1983, and landed on April 9. The mission’s primary payload was the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, a new NASA satellite that would revolutionize low-Earth orbit communications forever.

Mr. Weitz also served as Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center. He retired from NASA in 1994.

  • Kenneth_Brown

    Sad news. I had the opportunity to have a nice long chat with Mr Weitz at a Spacefest convention a few years ago and got to hear a few good stories.

  • duheagle

    Seeing old photos and video of the Early Manned Space Age is like watching vintage TV shows from the same era. Still enjoyable, but always touched with a bit of melancholy at the knowledge virtually everyone on-screen has since passed on.

  • Bulldog

    As a child I had the opportunity to meet Capt. Weitz while he was on a publicity tour with Pete Conrad and Joe Kerwin after their Skylab mission. I still have the autographed crew photo. It was quite a moment for a space obsessed kid who was living in the middle of nowhere. Godspeed Capt. Weitz.

  • therealdmt

    What a career, from the first repair job in space, to manning the first US space station, to commanding a giant reusable spaceplane…