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Shuttle Biographies
The following is a very selective list of biographical sketches focusing on the development of the Shuttle. Please see the bottom of this page for more biographical information.

Vance D. Brand was the commander of the first “operational” Shuttle mission (STS-5); the first four missions were considered test flights.

Aaron Cohen was the Orbiter Project Manager at Johnson Space Center.

Robert L. Crippen was the pilot for the STS-1 mission and later became director of the Kennedy Space Center.

LeRoy E. Day began his NASA career as the Acting Deputy Director of the Gemini Program in 1962. In 1966, he became the director of Apollo testing. He was named to head the Space Shuttle Task Group in April 1969. In December 1970, he became the Deputy Director of the Shuttle Program. In 1980, he became the Director for Space Transportation System Engineering and Integration.

Charles J. Donlan received his B.S. in aeronautical engineering from MIT in 1938 and joined the NACA’s Langley Research Center that year. In 1958, he became the Associate Director of the Space Task Group, which helped establish what would become the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He became the Associate Director at Langley in 1961 and its Deputy Director in 1967. Donlan moved to Headquarters in 1968 to become the Deputy Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight (Technical). In November 1970, he also took on the role of Acting Director of the Space Shuttle Program, which he held until 1973. He retired from NASA in 1976 and then worked as a consultant for the Institute for Defense Analyses, studying military uses for the Shuttle for 12 years.

Joe H. Engle was the commander of STS-2 and the backup commander of STS-1. He was also involved in the Approach and Landing Test (ALT) program for the Shuttle.

Maxime A. Faget was trained as an aeronautical engineer, with a B.S. from Louisiana State University. He joined the staff at Langley Aeronautical Laboratory in 1946 and soon became head of the performance aerodynamics branch of the pilotless aircraft research division. There, he conducted research on the heatshield of the Mercury spacecraft. In 1958, he joined the Space Task Group in NASA, forerunner of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center that later became the Johnson Space Center; he became its assistant director for engineering and development in 1962, and he later became its director. He contributed many of the original design concepts for Project Mercury’s manned spacecraft and played a major role in designing virtually every U.S. crewed spacecraft since that time, including the Space Shuttle. He retired from NASA in 1981 and became an executive for Eagle Engineering, Inc. In 1982, he was one of the founders of Space Industries, Inc., and became its president and chief executive officer.

James C. Fletcher was the NASA Administrator from 1971 to 1977, and again from 1986 to 1989.

Robert Frosch was the Administrator from 1977 to 1981.

Chester M. (Chet) Lee was the Director of Space Transportation System Operations from 1975 to 1980. He successively held positions as Director of Space Transporation Systems Utilization, head of the Shuttle’s Customer Service Division, and Assistant Associate Administrator of the Office of Space Flight before retiring from NASA in 1987.

George M. Low was the NASA Deputy Administrator from 1969 to 1976.

Myron (Mike) Malkin was the Headquarters Shuttle Program Director from 1973 to 1980.

Hans Mark was the Director of the NASA Ames Research Center from 1969 to 1977. From 1977 to 1979, he served as the Undersecretary of the Air Force and the Director of the National Reconnaissance Office. In 1979, he became Secretary of the Air Force and served in this post until 1981; then he went back to NASA and served as the Deputy Administrator from 1981 to 1984. Until the Challenger accident, he was instrumental in making sure that Pentagon payloads flew on the Shuttle.

George E. Mueller was the Associate Administrator for the Office of Manned Space Flight at NASA Headquarters from 1963 to 1969; he was responsible for overseeing the completion of Project Apollo and for beginning the development of the Space Shuttle. He moved to the General Dynamics Corporation as senior vice president in 1969 and remained there until 1971. He then served as president of the Systems Development Corporation from 1971 to 1980 and as chairman and CEO from 1981 to 1983.

Dale D. Myers was the Associate Administrator for Manned Space Flight from 1970 to 1974. From 1969 to 1970, he was the vice-president and program manager for the Space Shuttle Program at Rockwell International Corporation; previously he had served as Rockwell’s vice-president and program manager for the Apollo Command/Service Module Program.

Thomas O. Paine was the NASA Administrator from 1969 to 1970.

Milton A. Silveira worked at NASA’s Langley Research Center from 1951 to 1963 and at the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston from 1963 to 1967. He also served as manager of Shuttle engineering from 1968 to 1973 and as deputy manager of the Shuttle orbiter project at the Johnson Space Center from 1967 to 1981. He then moved to Headquarters and served as the assistant to the Deputy Administrator of NASA from 1981 to 1983, and the NASA Chief Engineer from 1983 to 1986.

Robert F. (Bob) Thompson started his career with NACA in 1947. He was an early member of the Space Task Group in 1959; he then worked on recovery operations for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. In 1966, he became head of the Apollo Applications Program, which became the Skylab program. In 1970, he opened Shuttle program office and then served as the Shuttle Project Manager at Johnson Space Center until he left NASA in June 1981.

James R. (J.R.) Thompson worked as an engineer on the Saturn launch vehicle at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in the 1960s. He later was the project manager for the Space Shuttle Main Engine. In 1986, he became the director of the Marshall Space Flight Center; in 1989, he moved to Headquarters to become the NASA Deputy Administrator.

Richard H. Truly was the the pilot of STS-2 mission and later (1989—1992) served as the NASA Administrator.

John F. Yardley was an aerospace engineer who worked with the McDonnell Aircraft Corp. on several NASA human spaceflight projects between the 1950s and the 1970s. He also served as NASA Associate Administrator for Space Flight between 1974 and 1981. Thereafter he returned to McDonnell Douglas as president from 1981 to 1988. Click here to view a press release upon his death in 2001.

John W. Young served as the commander of STS-1.

Information on Historical NASA Figures

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Updated November 15, 2012
Bill Barry, NASA Chief Historian
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the flight of sts-1