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Knoxville — Graduates of the University of Tennessee Space Institute have piloted three recent space shuttle missions.

Dr. Dwayne McCay, UT Vice President for Research and Information Technology, said the Space Institute has strong connections to the U.S. space program.

“Not only did we have three UTSI grads who were pilots on the shuttle, we have two that are close to making the final selection this year to become astronauts,” McCay said. “It’s a program that has a tremendous history in terms of success for individuals being selected for the astronaut program.”

McCay said UTSI curriculum exposes students to advanced avionics training.

“The pilots get a significant dose of what it’s like to be not only flying an aircraft, but understanding the various aspects of its stability.”