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William Cameron "Willie" McCool
Born (1961-09-23)September 23, 1961
Died February 1, 2003(2003-02-01) (aged 41)
Place of birth San Diego, California
Place of death Over Texas
Rank Commander, USN

William Cameron "Willie" McCool (September 23, 1961 – February 1, 2003) was a United States Navy Commander, NASA astronaut and the pilot of Space Shuttle Columbia mission STS-107. He was killed, along with all others, when their spacecraft disintegrated during re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.[1][2] He was the youngest male member of the crew.

Personal data[]

McCool was born September 23, 1961, in San Diego, California, and died on February 1, 2003, over the southern United States when Space Shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry, 16 minutes prior to scheduled landing. He was survived by his wife and children. He enjoyed running, mountain biking, back country hiking/camping, swimming, playing guitar, and chess, and had a home in Anacortes, Washington, at the time of his death.[3]

His favorite song was "Imagine" by John Lennon, which was played during the space mission. His favorite band was Radiohead, and the song "Fake Plastic Trees" was played by mission control as a wake-up call. McCool is buried at the United States Naval Academy Cemetery.[2]


  • 1979: Graduated from Coronado High School, Lubbock, Texas.
  • 1983: Received a Bachelor of Science degree in applied science from the United States Naval Academy.[2]
  • 1985: Received a Master of Science degree in computer science from the University of Maryland, College Park.[1]
  • 1992: Received a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School.[1]


McCool completed flight training and was designated a Naval Aviator in August 1986. He was assigned to Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 129 (VAQ-129) at NAS Whidbey Island, Washington, for initial EA-6B Prowler training. His first operational tour was with Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 133 (VAQ-133), where he made two deployments aboard the USS Coral Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and received designation as a wing-qualified Landing Signal Officer (LSO). In November 1989, he was selected for the Naval Postgraduate School/Test Pilot School (TPS) Cooperative Education Program.[1]

After graduating from TPS in June 1992, he worked as a TA-4J and EA-6B test pilot in Flight Systems Department of Strike Aircraft Test Directorate at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland. He was responsible for the management and conduct of a wide variety of projects, ranging from airframe fatigue life studies to numerous avionics upgrades. His primary efforts, however, were dedicated to flight test of the Advanced Capability (ADVCAP) EA-6B. Following his Patuxent River tour, McCool returned to Whidbey Island, and was assigned to Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron 132 (VAQ-132) aboard the USS Enterprise. He served as Administrative and Operations Officer with the squadron through their work-up cycle, receiving notice of his NASA selection while embarked on Enterprise for her final pre-deployment at sea period.[1]

McCool accumulated over 2,800 hours flight experience in 24 aircraft and over 400 carrier arrestments.

NASA experience[]

Selected by NASA in April 1996, McCool reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. He completed two years of training and evaluation, and was qualified for flight assignment as a pilot. Initially assigned to the Computer Support Branch, McCool also served as Technical Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations, and worked Shuttle cockpit upgrade issues for the Astronaut Office. He was the pilot on STS-107, logging 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space.

Space flight experience[]

STS-107 Columbia (January 16 to February 1, 2003). The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. The STS-107 mission ended abruptly on February 1, 2003, when Columbia and her crew perished during re-entry, 16 minutes before scheduled landing.


  • U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association.


Posthumously awarded:

Special honors[]


Commander William C. McCool School in Santa Rita, Guam

  • Asteroid 51829 Williemccool was posthumously named for McCool.
  • McCool Hill in the Columbia Hills on Mars was posthumously named for McCool.
  • McCool Hall, in the Columbia Village apartments at the Florida Institute of Technology, is named after him.
  • Guam South Elementary/Middle School, a DoDEA school in Santa Rita, Guam, was renamed CDR William C. McCool Elementary/Middle School on August 29, 2003.
  • Willie McCool Track and Field at Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas, was posthumously named for McCool.
  • Willie McCool Bronze Sculpture placed in the library at Coronado High School in Lubbock, Texas.
  • Willie McCool Memorial was dedicated on Saturday, May 7, 2005, at Huneke Park at 82nd and Quaker Avenue in Lubbock, Texas.
  • The William McCool Science Center, located on the campus of the Frank Lamping Elementary School in Henderson, Nevada, is a facility where elementary students throughout the Clark County School District have an opportunity to learn about space and other fields of science.
  • A Gawad Kalinga village in Moncada, Tarlac, Philippines, will be named "USN Commander Willie McCool GK Village". [1]
  • In the Star Trek book Mirror Universe – Glass Empires, the shuttlecraft of the U.S.S. Defiant in the short story "Age of the Empress" is named the McCool.
  • McCool Field at Officer Training Command-Newport, Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island is named after him.
  • The Willie McCool Monument was dedicated on December 2, 2007, at the U.S. Naval Academy Golf Course. The monument stands where Willie would have been 16 minutes from the finish line during his fastest race on Navy's home course.
  • The Willie McCool Memorial Model Air Field park located in North Las Vegas, Nevada was posthumously named for McCool on October 23, 2004. [2]
  • McCool Hall, located on Tinker AFB, Oklahoma is a Navy Bachelors Enlisted Quarters named after McCool.
  • Camp McCool, located in Bagram Airfield, is the home of rotating EA-6B Prowler Squadrons currently supporting ISAF in Afghanistan.


From our orbital vantage point, we observe an earth without borders, full of peace, beauty and magnificence, and we pray that humanity as a whole can imagine a borderless world as we see it and strive to live as one in peace.

—William Cameron McCool

  • This article includes text from NASA's "William C. McCool: NASA Astronaut Biographical Data", a work in the public domain.

See also[]

  • Space Shuttle Columbia disaster
  • Space science


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 NASA. William C. McCool: NASA Astronaut: Biographical Data, Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center website, May 2004. Retrieved August 15, 2010. Note: this text, the work of a U.S. Government agency, is a work in the public domain.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Kershaw, Sarah Space Shuttle Widow Is Ready to Move on From Rituals of Loss, New York Times, December 5, 2007. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
  3. "McCool's 'excitement was infectious' / Anacortes mourns shocking loss of generous, inspiring neighbor". Seattle P-I. February 3, 2003. Retrieved February 19, 2011. 
  4. Townley, Alvin. Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 79. ISBN 0-312-36653-1. Retrieved December 29, 2006. 

External links[]

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