NYU Tandon Congratulates Hall of Famer Charlie Camarda (’74)

the crew of the Discovery's "Return to Flight" mission.jpg

Charlie Camarda (third from right) and the crew of the Discovery's "Return to Flight" mission

Astronaut Charlie Camarda, who earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1974 and went on to a storied career at NASA, was inducted into the Long Island Air & Space Hall of Fame, an initiative honoring figures who have played a major role in advancing aeronautical and technological achievement.

A native of Queens, Camarda joined NASA’s Langley Research Center shortly after graduating from what was then known as the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. As a research scientist at Langley, he demonstrated that it was feasible to have a heat-pipe-cooled leading edge on a space shuttle (much of his work was conducted in Langley’s impressive high-temperature tunnel). In 1983 he was named one of the top innovators of the year by Industrial Research Magazine for his heat-pipe-cooled sandwich panel — just one of his many patents.

Astronaut Charlie Camarda

A signed portrait of Charlie Camarda. Source: Poly Archives

In 1996 Camarda was chosen as an astronaut candidate, and he flew into space for the first time as a mission specialist aboard the Discovery, which marked the first "Return to Flight" space shuttle mission since 2003, when the Columbia disintegrated upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere, killing all seven crew members.

As an engineer, he was torn between flying the mission and continuing to work on solving the structural problems that had led to the Columbia disaster. Ultimately, however, when the Discovery launched on July 26, 2005, Camarda was one of seven crew members aboard, fulfilling a dream he had held since childhood.

Once that dream had come to fruition, Camarda turned his attention directly back to engineering, becoming a senior advisor to the chief engineer at NASA. He also turned his attention back to his alma mater: he returned to teach a course on innovative conceptual engineering design and to help spearhead what was then the fresh concept of invention, innovation, and entrepreneurship (i2e), which quickly became a bedrock theme for the institution.

So while Long Island may have claimed him for its Hall of Fame, Tandon and Brooklyn have long considered him uniquely ours.