Jerry Summers: Jamestown And Benton, Tennessee's Astronaut

Wednesday, November 25, 2020 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

Fentress County is best known as the birthplace and residence of World War I Medal of Honor recipient, Alvin C. York but it also can proudly claim that an astronaut in the United States space program was born in Jamestown.

Roger K. Crouch came into this world on September 12, 1940 and his family moved to Benton when he was 6 years old.

He graduated from Polk County High School and earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in 1962.

He later would receive a Master of Science in 1968 and a Doctor of Philosophy in Physics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 1971.

In 1997 he flew as a payload specialist on two NASA Space Shuttle Missions on the Columbia space craft.

He was part of a seven-member crew on STS-83 which was in space from April 4-8, 1997 with a mission duration of 95 hours and 12 minutes traveling 1.5 million miles in 63 orbits around the earth.

This mission was cut short because of problems with one of the shuttles three fuel cell power units that provided water and electricity to Columbia.

Flight rules required that all three must be operating. Columbia safely landed at Kennedy Space Center.

NASA made the unique decision to leave the equipment installed in Columbia and to refly the next mission with the same crew later in 1997.

The space shuttle was launched on July 1, 1997 and the mission this time went for its full two-week duration and the crew completed the full list of experiments. On July 17, 1997, the Columbia landed on Kennedy Space Center’s Runway 33.

This being a reflight of the previous mission it focused on materials and combustion science research. The duration of the flight was 376 hours and 45 minutes, traveling 6.3 million miles in 251 orbits of the earth.

Crouch also served as the manager of a research program that had the responsibility for assuring that any experiments in the flight program achieved the highest levels of scientific results possible.

His resume of positions in the space program is voluminous and demonstrates his ability and responsibilities that he was given.

He has been recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus at both Tennessee Technological University (1997) and Virginia Tech University (1998) and has received NASA’s Exceptional Performance Award (1989).

Fentress County has two distinguished citizens born in the hills of the Cumberland Plateau who have served their country and government in separate but especially outstanding service.

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Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)  

Roger Crouch
Roger Crouch

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