By SDCN Editor
San Diego, CA–The International Air and Space Hall of Fame inducted five aviation explorers into its ranks during a star-studded gala at the San Diego Air and Space Museum during an evening of celebration and recognition at Balboa Park on October 21.
The Class of 2023 is representative of the pioneering spirit of so many of the famous aviators and astronauts – from Charles Lindbergh, the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart to Neil Armstrong – who preceded them into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame.
This year’s inductees included actor, author, and philanthropist, William Shatner, who was the oldest person to travel to space. Artemis astronaut and biologist Dr. Jessica Meir, who many think will be the first woman to walk on the Moon; Naval aviator and Navy Cross recipient E. Royce Williams, a true American hero; pioneering American aviator Robert DeLaurentis, whose lifelong passion for flight is an inspiration for future generations; and General Atomics – Aeronautical Systems Inc., a worldwide leader in unmanned aerial vehicles for military and civilian usage.
During his rousing, passionate induction-acceptance address, Shatner, widely known for his portrayal of Captain James T. Kirk on “Star Trek,” shared his lifelong love of flying, but also his deep and personal reverence for the men and women in the International Air and Space Hall of Fame.
“This room, this museum, this Hall of Fame is salted with heroes,” Shatner said. “They are true heroes, and I am proud to be joining such a tremendous group.”
Having earned her Ph.D. from the University of California at San Diego, Jessica Meir shared her personal experiences during the first-ever all-female spacewalk outside the International Space Station with fellow astronaut Christina Koch.
“You don’t get much time to look around during a spacewalk, but when we were near the airlock, I was able to look down and see the familiar outlines of Baja California give a shout-out to San Diego,” Meir remembered. “To think I am in the Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air and Space Museum is truly an honor.”
Another of the evening’s highlights was a heart-warming standing ovation from the crowd for Capt. Williams during his induction.
Robert DeLaurentis and the representatives from Neal Blue, Linden Blue, and David Alexander from General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. also shared how honored they were to be joining the museum.
“We’re exceptionally pleased to honor this exemplary Class of 2023 because these men and women represent a vast range of the ongoing advances in aviation and space exploration,” said Jim Kidrick, President and CEO of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.”