Press Release

Astronaut, astrophysicist F. Curtin Michel Dies at 80

By SpaceRef Editor
March 5, 2015
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Former Astronaut Curtis Michel, 80, a member of the astronaut class of 1965 and renowned astrophysicist, died Thursday, Feb. 26, at his home in Houston.

Michel (pronounced My-kull) was selected as an Apollo Program astronaut in June 1965, a member of the same scientist-astronaut class as Owen Garriott, Edward Gibson, Duane Graveline, Joseph Kerwin and Harrison Schmitt. He came to the then Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston the year that Gemini IV launched, the first mission flown out of the new Mission Control Center, 50 years ago. He left NASA in 1969 to return to teaching and research.

“Michel joined NASA at a dynamic time as NASA was making great strides toward its goal of putting humans on the moon before the end of the decade,” said Bob Behnken, Chief of the Astronaut Office. “While he resigned before being able to fly in space, he remained committed to expanding our knowledge of the universe. On behalf of NASA and the Astronaut Office, we extend our heartfelt sympathies to his family and loved ones.”

Michel began his engineering career with the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co.’s Guided Missile Division. He joined the U.S. Air Force in 1955 as a Reserve Officer Training Corps graduate, and received flight training at Marana Air Force Base, Arizona, and Laredo and Perrin Air Force Bases in Texas. During three years of military service, he flew F-86D Interceptors in the U.S. and Europe.

Following active duty in the Air Force, he became a research fellow at the California Institute of Technology, working in experimental and theoretical nuclear physics. He came to Houston in July 1963 and joined the faculty at Rice University, specializing in studies involving the interaction of solar winds and the lunar atmosphere.

After leaving NASA, Michel returned to Rice University. He was department chair of the Space Physics and Astronomy Department at Rice from 1974 to 1979. He was selected as the Andrew Hays Buchanan professor of astrophysics and later named a Guggenheim Fellow to the University of Paris, France. He also was awarded the Alexander von Humboldt Senior U.S. Scientist Award from 1982 to 1983.

He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Hausman; son, Jeffrey Michel; daughter, Alice Michel, and three grandsons.

For Michel’s official NASA biography, visit:

For additional Rice biographical information, visit:


SpaceRef staff editor.