The Congressional Space Medal of Honor was authorized by the United States Congress in 1969 to recognize "any astronaut who in the performance of his duties has distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious efforts and contributions to the welfare of the Nation and mankind." The highest award given by NASA, it is awarded by the President of the United States in Congress's name on recommendations from the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The award is a separate decoration from the Medal of Honor, which is a military award for extreme bravery and gallantry in combat.
Although the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is a civilian award of the United States government, it is authorized as a military decoration for display on U.S. military uniforms due to the prestige of the decoration. In such cases, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is worn as a ribbon following all United States Armed Forces decorations.
To be awarded the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, an astronaut must perform feats of extraordinary accomplishment while participating in space flight under the authority of NASA. Typically, the Congressional Space Medal of Honor is awarded for scientific discoveries or actions of tremendous benefit to mankind. The decoration may also be awarded for extreme bravery during a space emergency or in preventing a major space disaster. The Congressional Space Medal of Honor may also be presented posthumously to those astronauts who die while performing a US space mission; and as of 2004, all 17 astronauts killed on US missions have been awarded the medal.
As of 2014[update], 28 astronauts have been honored with the award. Seventeen were honored posthumously: 14 died in either the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster or the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, and the other three died in the Apollo 1 fire. An asterisk indicates a posthumous award.
- Awards and decorations of the United States government
- Category:Recipients of the Congressional Space Medal of Honor
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