Space Shuttle Columbia Astronaut, Bob Cenker Shares

Stories of Life in Space at FREE Lecture

 As a part of our continued “Countdown to Apollo at 50” celebration, the Cradle of Aviation Museum is honored to host NASA Shuttle Astronaut Robert Joseph “Bob” Cenker on Thursday, February 28th at 7:00 pm. Cenker, will speak with guests about the human side of space exploration including his experience on the Space Shuttle Columbia and career in aerospace. There will be an exclusive Museum Member Meet & Greet at 6:15 PM.  The event is FREE, but reservations are required at (516)-572-4066 to reserve your spot.

Cenker is often asked to share his experience with sleeping in zero gravity. He retells that he was never one to have trouble sleeping and during the mission was comfortable using Velcro as a restraint. While asleep, the Velcro failed and Cenker started floating around the cabin. Fellow Shuttle Crew Astronaut, Bill Nelson (who spoke at the Cradle in April 2018) got tired of pushing him back and forth to his side of the cabin, so came up with a solution. Cenker awoke from his sleep to find he had been duct taped to the wall by Nelson.

Cenker was born in Uniontown, PA and earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering at Penn State followed by a Master’s in Electrical Engineering from Rutgers University. Having worked 18 years at RCA/GE, Cenker was selected by RCA to train and soon became Payload Specialist for NASA in 1985. Payload specialists were scientists that were trained to perform specific experiments in space, with minimal training as an astronaut.

Cenker’s Columbia mission (STS-61-C) launched on January 12, 1986, after several aborted attempts. On that mission, Cenker successfully performed physiological tests, conducted an infrared imaging camera experiment, and helped with deployment of the RCA Satcom Ku-1 satellite. In total he traveled over 2.1 million miles in 96 Earth orbits and logged over 146 hours in space.

That mission was also significant in that its crew members included the second African American shuttle pilot, Charlie Bolden, the first Hispanic-American astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz, and the second sitting politician in space, Representative Bill Nelson (D-FL). It was also the last shuttle mission before the Challenger tragedy which killed all crew members 73 seconds into flight. (just 10 days after Columbia’s STS-61-C was completed.)

Today Cenker consults with several companies in spacecraft design, assembly and flight operations, and micro-gravity research.  

The Cradle of Aviation Museum and Education Center is home to over 75 planes and spacecraft representing over 100 years of aviation history and Long Island’s only Giant Screen Dome Theater.  Currently, the museum is celebrating  “Countdown to Apollo at 50” sponsored by the Robert D.L. Gardiner Foundation, showcasing Long Island and Grumman’s significant role in the Apollo program. The Museum was recently recognized and listed on New York State’s National Register of Historic Places as a significant part of American history. The museum is located on Museum Row, Charles Lindbergh Blvd., in East Garden City.  For more information call (516) 572-4111 or visit