Six trailblazers were inducted here Aug. 24 into the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame for their significant accomplishments in the advancement of space and missile programs in the Air Force.

The inductees, whose work formed the basis upon which Air Force Space Command now operates, marched proudly through the crowd to take their seats amid cheers and applause from more than 300 guests and headquarters personnel gathered at the Hartinger Building. Among the distinguished guests were Colorado Senator Ron May and Colorado Springs Mayor Lionel Rivera. Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, AFSPC vice commander, presided over the ceremony.

“You blazed the trail for our space and missile enterprise,” said General Klotz to the current and past inductees. “You risked careers, friendships and sometimes even your lives. Your tremendous contributions are the stuff of legends.”

The 2006 Space and Missile Pioneer inductees, all retired, are: Maj. Gen. Ben I. Funk; Brig. Gen. Maurice A. Cristadoro Jr.; Col. Wilbert F. Craig III; Col. Francis J. Hale; U.S. Air Force Reserve Col. Richard S. Leghorn; and Lt. Col. Albert W. Johnson.

“From missile and space systems hardware to space law and space medicine, people associated with the U.S. Air Force have pioneered paths into uncharted territory,” said Dr. Rick Sturdevant, AFSPC deputy command historian.

Colonel Craig played a significant role in the Air Force’s early space surveillance programs. He helped organize the “Moonwatch” Project to create one of the first Air Force satellite tracking sites. Colonel Craig was selected for the original Spacetrack Space Surveillance team; was chief analyst for Program 437, the nation’s only deployed anti-satellite system; and led the project to put space surveillance into initial Cheyenne Mountain operation in 1965-1966. Colonel Craig was the Air Force secretary’s representative for preparing the Department of Defense for shuttle operations. He evaluated potential shuttle applications and created the proposed 12-year launch schedule.

General Cristadoro was a pioneer in the development of the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile programs. In 1956, he joined Western Development Division, where in March 1958, he became director of the Atlas ICBM program. He was responsible for all aspects of Atlas acquisition, which had the highest national priority at that time. He was among a very small group of individuals intimately involved with the highly secretive preparations for using an Atlas booster to launch SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment), the world’s first communications satellite. General Cristadoro later oversaw all matters associated with Air Force Systems Command’s role in ballistic-missile acquisition. He shouldered responsibility for shifting resources from Atlas to the Titan and Minuteman ICBM programs.

In the mid-1950s, Air Materiel Command assigned General Funk to direct the procurement and production activities supporting General Bernard Schriever’s high-priority ballistic missile development program at Western Development Division in Los Angeles, Calif. General Funk dedicated himself to supporting General Schriever’s efforts to develop, test, produce, and deploy the first generation of ballistic missiles. In 1962, General Funk became Space Systems Division commander. To achieve initial operational capability of satellite systems for nuclear detection, meteorology, communications, and missile warning, his teams at Vandenberg AFB, Calif., and Cape Canaveral, Fla., carried out launches at a rate that remains unsurpassed. They also supported NASA’s Mercury and Gemini programs and oversaw development and early use of the Titan III launch vehicle, which provided the primary access to space for the largest and most critical military satellites, as well as for many of NASA’s interplanetary missions.

Colonel Hale served as the deputy director of the Thor missile program beginning in January 1956. He became the first plans and programs officer, then deputy director, of the Minuteman ICBM program. He was a professor and head of the astronautics department at the Air Force Academy, and, before retiring from active duty in 1965, he worked in the Pentagon on various advanced aerospace projects.

Colonel Johnson’s contributions centered on development of military reconnaissance satellites. In August 1958, he became the project officer for the recovery vehicle being developed by General Electric to return data from earth-orbiting satellites. When the Discoverer/Corona project was formed later that same year, he became one of the original team members. As chief of the payloads division for Discoverer/Corona, Colonel Johnson’s primary responsibility was working with the Central Intelligence Agency and its contractor, ITEK Corporation, to integrate the Corona camera with the Discoverer Satellite Vehicle. He subsequently became the first chairman of the Discoverer/Corona Configuration Control Board. As project officer for the development and integration of the “Stellar/Index” camera into the system, he made its primary product useful to the mapping and charting community. He also served as the first project officer on design of components and subsystems to detect and counter possible enemy interference with Air Force satellite operations.

“We never expected (recognition) 50 years ago,” said Colonel Johnson. “We thought what we were doing would be buried forever. But I had nothing but fun working with that team. They were unconventional, every one of them.”

Colonel Leghorn led development of early Cold War airborne and space-based photographic reconnaissance systems. In the 1950s, he headed the Reconnaissance Systems Branch at Wright Air Development Center, Ohio, before being assigned to the development-planning staff of then-Col. Bernard A. Schriever at the Pentagon. In the latter position, Colonel Leghorn contributed extensively to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Air Force-funded Project Lincoln, which issued the June 1952 Beacon Hill Report that identified extremely high-altitude vehicles – balloons, sounding rockets, air-breathing missiles and aircraft – that could carry improved sensors near or over Soviet territory. This laid the groundwork for the U-2 aircraft. In 1957, he founded ITEK, a high-tech “document retrieval” company that later developed the high-resolution photographic system for Corona reconnaissance satellites during the 1960s.

Colonel Leghorn said he hadn’t been treated to such attention in his whole life. “Corona was so highly secret that we never knew who was working on what. I didn’t know, even until today, of the great contributions of the people gathered here,” he said.

General Klotz said later, at a luncheon held in the inductees’ honor, that the Air Force Space and Missile Pioneers Hall of Fame is unique from other halls of fame in that inductees are not typically well known to the world, due to the necessary secrecy surrounding the body of their work.

“It is fitting that we can finally give them the recognition they so richly deserve,” General Klotz said.