The Naval Astronaut Flight Officer badge can trace its origins to the establishment of the Naval Aviation Observer badge, first issued in 1922 to navigators and other Navy personnel serving in support roles on Naval aircraft. Originally featuring a single wing, the Aviation Observer insignia was changed to the same one used for Naval Aviators five years later.

It wasn’t until 1966, with the arrival of sophisticated aircraft featuring banks of sensors, radar, weapons systems, and other equipment that required highly trained specialized personnel, that the Navy created the Naval Flight Officer designation and insignia.

While Naval Flight Officers are not trained as pilots, they sometimes handle the roles associated with the term “co-pilot.” Typically, they are responsible for weapons, sensors, communications, and other systems essential for aircraft operation.

The Naval Astronaut Flight Officer badge carries the same eligibility requirements and qualification standards as the Astronaut badge: the officer must have taken part in a successful mission in an extraterrestrial craft that reached a minimum altitude of 50 miles. Ultimately, the Chief of Naval Operations or the Commandant of the Marine Corps is responsible for awarding this designation.

Naval Flight Officer Captain Dale Gardner qualified as a NASA Mission Specialist and took part in two Space Shuttle missions, the first of which took place on August 30, 1983.

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