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Who is NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore, who gave pro-America launch speech?

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft successfully launched NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” E. Wilmore and Suni Williams into space for the vehicle’s first crewed flight Wednesday morning, but not before Wilmore gave a speech praising the American flag and “tough” citizens who have inspired him.

“Suni and I, as we were traveling to the pad, we saw many American flags and many of you were waving flags at us,” Wilmore, a retired U.S. Navy captain, said less than six minutes before liftoff from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “And then as we reached the pad, we looked up and of course there’s an American flag on the side of the white room, also one on the side of the rocket itself. We know that that represents unity and resilience and unified efforts for the common good. That’s what Suni and I have witnessed this last month.”

“Each of you displaying what this nation’s forefathers envisioned: a people committed to God, family and country,” he continued. “A people who use their gifts and talents for the common good, and are passionate and tough. And we all know when the going gets tough, and it often does, the tough get going, and you have. And Suni and I are honored to share this dream of space flight with each and every one of you.”

“Let’s put some fire in this rocket, let’s push it to the heavens, where all these tough Americans have prepared it to be,” he concluded, before heading for his third mission aboard the International Space Station.

Prior to the Starliner launch, Wilmore had accumulated 178 days in space, his NASA biography states. 

BOEING STARLINER LAUNCHES 2 NASA ASTRONAUTS INTO SPACE IN FIRST PILOTED TEST FLIGHT

Barry "Butch" Wilmore NASA photo

Official photo of NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Navy Capt. Barry “Butch” E. Wilmore. (NASA)

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“Wilmore served as a Flight Engineer for Expedition 41 until November when he assumed command of the station upon arrival of the Expedition 42 crew,” NASA’s website says. “He returned to Earth in March 2015. During this mission, he logged 167 days in space and performed four spacewalks. In 2009, Wilmore served as a pilot aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis for STS-129.”

During his time in the Navy as an officer and aviator, he completed four deployments, flying A-7E and FA 18 aircraft from the decks of the USS Forrestal, USS Kennedy, USS Enterprise and the USS Eisenhower aircraft carriers during Operations Desert Storm, Desert Shield and Southern Watch over Iraq. 

BOEING’S 1ST ASTRONAUT FLIGHT NOW SET FOR JUNE AFTER A REVIEW OF SMALL LEAK ON NEW CAPSULE

Starliner crew

Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on June 5, 2024, in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

Wilmore is from Mount Juliet, Tennessee. He has a bachelor of science and master of science in electrical engineering from Tennessee Technological University and a master of science in aviation systems from the University of Tennessee, according to NASA.

He and his wife have two daughters.

Boeing's Starliner-1 Crew launch

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying two astronauts aboard Boeing’s Starliner-1 Crew Flight Test (CFT), is launched on a mission to the International Space Station, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, June 5, 2024. (Steve Nesius / Reuters Photos)

NASA has partnered with Boeing and SpaceX to send astronauts to space since the retirement of space shuttles. Wednesday’s launch was the first successful liftoff of a crewed mission for Boeing, while SpaceX has been launching astronauts into space since 2020.

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Prior to Wednesday, the last attempt to launch Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft was scrubbed Saturday less than four minutes before blastoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center due to a ground system computer triggering an automatic abort command that shut down the launch sequence.

Butch Wilmore wave

NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore, wearing a Boeing spacesuit, departs the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center on June 5, 2024.  (Miguel J. Rodriguez Carrillo/AFP via / Getty Images)

The first attempt to launch was May 6. NASA, Boeing and ULA scrubbed the opportunity “due to a suspect oxygen relief valve on the Atlas V rocket’s Centaur second stage,” a launch attempt coverage advisory stated. 

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