The Savanna-Sabula bridge will be known as the "Dale Gardner Veterans Memorial Bridge" under legislation (HJR 58) sponsored by State Sen. Neil Anderson and passed by the Senate May 31. State Rep. Tony McCombie carried the legislation in the House, passing it May 26.
“Dale Gardner played an important role in the history of the NASA program and our U.S. Navy,” Anderson said. “His resume and accomplishments are unmatched. Naming a bridge after him is the least we can do to honor him.”
Gardner was born in Minnesota in 1948, but attended Savanna Community High School, graduating in 1966. He then attended the University of Illinois, graduating in 1970 with a 5.0 GPA.
He then entered into active duty with the U.S. Navy and was assigned to the Aviation Officer Candidate School in Florida. After graduating from Basic Naval Flight Officer Training School with the highest academic average ever achieved in the history of the squadron, he then attended the Naval Air Technical Training Center.
Gardner then spent two years assigned to the Weapons Systems Test Division, and he was involved in the initial F-14 Tomcat developmental test and evaluation from 1973 to 1976.
Gardner was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in 1978. He served as the Astronaut Project Manager for the flight software in the space shuttle onboard computers leading up to the first flight in April 1981.
He logged a total of 337 hours in space and 225 orbits of the earth in his NASA career. Gardner later returned to his Navy duties and was assigned to the U.S. Space Command in Colorado. He retired from the Navy in 1990.
Gardner was awarded the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Meritorious Unit Commendation, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, the NASA Space Flight Medal, the Master Space Badge, and the Lloyd’s of London Meritorious Service Medal.