ND astronaut named recipient of Roosevelt Rough Rider Award

Submitted Photo Former astronaut James Buchli, a recipient of past honors, will be awarded the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award.

BISMARCK – Gov. Doug Burgum on Monday announced NASA astronaut James Buchli as the 49th recipient of the North Dakota Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award, the state’s highest commendation for its citizens.

Buchli, born in New Rockford, became the first North Dakotan to fly in space and is a veteran of four space flights. He has orbited the Earth 319 times, traveled 7.74 million miles and spent more than 20 days in space. He was a Marine Corps aviator before becoming a NASA astronaut with a career marked by impeccable service and groundbreaking achievements.

“Jim Buchli’s distinguished career is a testament to perseverance, expertise and leadership. He flew on four space shuttle missions and participated in scientific experiments, satellite deployments and defense-related space operations of great importance to our country,” Burgum said. “An exceptional North Dakotan, Buchli is a great supporter of the UND Aerospace program and shares his experience and skills with aspiring students. As the first person born in North Dakota to visit space, he’s an example of just how far a North Dakotan can go.”

“Theodore Roosevelt got it right when he said that without the time he spent in North Dakota, he would never have been president,” Buchli said. “North Dakota has given me the work ethic, determination and tenacity to succeed, just as it has for many others. For that gift, I am truly grateful.”

Buchli began his career with a commission as a second lieutenant upon his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1967, followed by a master’s degree in Aeronautical Engineering Systems from the University of West Florida. As a Marine Corps infantry officer, Buchli served with valor during the Vietnam War, earned numerous decorations and demonstrated exceptional skill as a naval aviator with over 4,200 flight hours in 17 aircraft types.

As a NASA astronaut, Buchli quickly established himself as a critical member of the pioneering space shuttle program. Selected in 1978 after completion of the Navy Test Pilot School, Buchli brought his extensive military experience to the space program, becoming one of the first astronauts specifically chosen for the space shuttle era. His missions included high-profile and challenging flights such as STS-51C, the first Department of Defense mission, and STS-61A, a joint venture with West Germany that featured the largest crew at that time and the first international payload operations.

Buchli’s career was marked by important scientific experiments and satellite deployments, such as the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite during STS-48. Following his active flight career, Buchli continued to serve as deputy chief of the Astronaut Office, where he played a key role in astronaut training and operations.

Buchli has frequently returned to North Dakota, engaging with the University of North Dakota’s space studies program and inspiring future generations of aerospace professionals.

In 2019, Buchli was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.

The Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award recognizes present and former North Dakotans who have been influenced by the state in achieving national recognition in their fields of endeavor, thereby reflecting credit and honor upon North Dakota and its citizens. The award will be presented to Buchli in person later this year.


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