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Astronauts Land in Blanco, Part 1
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 • Posted September 20, 2013

Who would have guessed that Blanco would be home to two, and possibly three, Space Shuttle commanders/pilots? Terence T. “Tom” Henricks and Daniel C. Brandenstein each moved to Blanco unbeknownst to the other. Not only did they move to Blanco but they moved into the same neighborhood.

Working for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Colonel Henricks commanded two Space Shuttle missions and piloted two missions from 1991 to 1996. He was a member of three NASA Program Review Change Boards controlling annual expenditures in excess of 500 million dollars. He was responsible for transporting the orbiter across the country atop a 747 airliner. As an expert on landing systems he led the redesigns following the Challenger accident and the selection of overseas Shuttle landing sites. He was the first person to log over 1,000 hours as a Space Shuttle commander or pilot. In 1996 he flew the longest Space Shuttle flight up to that time, spending 16 days doing space studies sponsored by ten nations and five space agencies. He has logged 42 days, 18 hours and 38 minutes in space.

Captain Brandenstein piloted Space Shuttle Challenger on the first mission to conduct a night launch and night landing. The 6-day mission deployed a communications/meteorological satellite and conducted tests of the Shuttle’s Remote Manipulator system (1983). In 1985 he commanded Space Shuttle Discovery with an international crew. The 7-day mission deployed three communications satellites and deployed and retrieved a satellite that conducted X-ray astronomy observations.

In 1990 Captain Brandenstein commanded Space Shuttle Columbia on an 11-day mission that also deployed the Syncom IV Communications Satellite and returned to earth the Long Duration Exposure Facility and conducted numerous medical experiments. In 1992 he commanded the first flight of Space Shuttle Endeavor on a 9-day mission that retrieved and repaired the INTELSAT Communications Satellite and conducted Space Station assembly experiments.

It is impossible to enumerate all the background, experience and qualifications of these two gentlemen, but here are a few: Henricks joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in various states, England, and Iceland. Following USAF Test Pilot School he commanded the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing Detachment at Edwards Air Force Base and did experimental test pilot flight evaluations of the F-16. He was the first to fire an AIM-9 missile from an F-16C.

Colonel Henricks evaluated weapons and developed tactics that were employed with success during the Gulf War. He was a finalist twice for the Air Force’s world renowned Thunderbirds precision flight team. Honors include the Distinguished Flying Cross, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, two Air Force Commendation Medals, four NASA Space Flight Medals, Bell Helicopter Chairman’s Award of Excellence, induction into the Ohio Veteran’s Hall of Fame, and an Honorary Doctor of Science Degree from Heidelberg College, Vaughn College, and The Defiance College. He retained Top Secret Clearance through 2005. He has made 749 parachute jumps and holds a Master Parachutist rating. He has flown 30 different types of aircraft logging over 6,000 hours of flying time. He has an FAA Commercial Pilot rating.

Captain Brandenstein served with the U.S. Navy Flight Training Command and was designated a Naval Aviator. He completed two combat deployments to Southeast Asia accruing 192 combat missions and 400 aircraft carrier landings. He led various squadron divisions that supported combat flight operations. As a Test Pilot and Program Manager he conducted developmental flight tests of classified electronic warfare systems. He also led a maintenance team that assured operational readiness of 14 A-6 aircraft and associated ground support equipment for a deployed fleet squadron.

Captain Brandenstein has received the Iven C. Kincheloe Award from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, the Haley Space Flight Award, the Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal, the Flight Achievement Award, two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, two Outstanding Leadership Medals, four NASA Space Flight Medals, was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2003, named Distinguished Alumnus of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, received an Honorary Doctor of Science from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, an Honorary Doctor of Engineering Degree from Milwaukee School of Engineering, and 35 Department of Defense, U.S. Navy, and Foreign Medals.

After his service with the United States Air Force and NASA Colonel Henricks has served in the private sector: The Timken Company as Director of Sales and Marketing-Aerospace and Super Precision; Textron Inc. as Vice President-Government Business Development, Deputy Director of V-22 Program, and Director of Program Management, Textron Information Services; McGraw-Hill, President of “Aviation Week” and led the first U.S. media visit to all Chinese manned space facilities; is presently the President of Henricks Enterprises, Inc., Blanco, Texas, where he is a sought after consultant for aerospace and media projects and services. He sits on several non-profit boards. He is also a partner with Newport Board Group (Dallas & Central Texas) and is a Six Sigma black belt, owns and operates a biplane, is a public speaker and entrepreneur.

Since leaving NASA, Captain Brandenstein has worked for IBM as Special Assistant to the Vice President where he led the activities of the astronaut team and support staff. He conducted Congressional visits and initiated new business in Russia. He was Director for Quality Assurance and Director of Program Development for Loral Space Information Systems. For Lockheed Martin Space Operations he was Vice-President for Customer Service and Vice President and Program Manager of Mission Support Operations Contract. He retired in 2012 from the United Space Alliance where he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. This was a $1.7B company with 10,000 employees providing services to NASA’s Space Shuttle and International Space Station and Exploration programs. Following the completion of the Space Shuttle program he led the successful transition to a smaller 3000 employee company.

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