Robert F. Overmyer

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Robert F. Overmyer
Overmyer robert 4.jpg
USAF / NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Deceased
Born (1936-07-14)July 14, 1936
Lorain, Ohio, U.S.
Died March 22, 1996(1996-03-22) (aged 59)
Duluth, Minnesota, U.S.
Other names
Robert Franklyn Overmyer
Other occupation
Test pilot
BW, B.S. 1958
NPS, M.S. 1964
Rank Colonel, USMC
Time in space
12d 02h 22m
Selection 1966 USAF MOL Group, 1969 NASA Group 7
Missions STS-5, STS-51-B
Mission insignia
STS-5 mission insignia.png Sts-51-b-patch.png
Retirement June 1986
Awards Dfc-usa.jpg

Robert Franklyn Overmyer (July 14, 1936 – March 22, 1996) was an American test pilot, Colonel in the United States Marine Corps and NASA astronaut. He was born in Lorain, Ohio, but considered Westlake, Ohio his hometown. Overmyer was selected by the United States Air Force as an astronaut for its Manned Orbiting Laboratory in 1966. Upon cancellation of this program in 1969, he became a NASA astronaut and served support crew duties for the Skylab program and Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. In 1976, he was assigned to the Space Shuttle program, and flew as pilot on STS-5 in 1982 and as commander on STS-51-B in 1985. He was selected as a lead investigator into the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and retired from NASA in 1986.

Early life and education[edit]

Overmyer was born in Lorain, Ohio, on July 14, 1936. Graduated from Westlake High School, Westlake, Ohio, in 1954, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Baldwin Wallace College in 1958 and a Master of Science degree in Aeronautics with a major in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1964.[1]

Marine Corps and early NASA career[edit]

Overmyer entered active duty with the Marine Corps in January 1958. After completing Navy flight training in Kingsville, Texas, he was assigned to VMA-214 in November 1959. Overmyer was assigned to the Naval Postgraduate School in 1962 to study aeronautical engineering. Upon completion of his graduate studies, he served one year with Marine Maintenance Squadron 17 at MCAS Iwakuni, Japan. He was then assigned to the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Colonel Overmyer was chosen as an astronaut for the Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) Program in 1966. Colonel Overmyer logged over 7,500 flight hours, with over 6,000 in jet aircraft.[1]

The MOL program was canceled in 1969, and soon afterward Overmyer was selected as a NASA astronaut. His first assignment with NASA was engineering development duties on the Skylab Program from 1969 to 1971. From 1971 to 1972, he was a support crew member for Apollo 17 and was the launch capsule communicator. From 1973 to 1975, he was a support crew member for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and was the NASA capsule communicator (CAPCOM) in the mission control center in Moscow. In 1976, he was assigned duties on the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) Program and was the prime T-38 Talon chase pilot for Orbiter Free-Flights 1 and 3. In 1979 Colonel Overmyer was assigned as the Deputy Vehicle Manager of OV-102 (Columbia) in charge of finishing the manufacturing and tiling of Columbia at the Kennedy Space Center preparing it for its first flight. This assignment lasted until Columbia was transported to the launch pad in 1980.[1]

Shuttle career[edit]

Overmyer on the flight deck of Space Shuttle Columbia during the STS-5 mission.

Colonel Overmyer was the pilot for STS-5, the first fully operational flight of the Shuttle program, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on November 11, 1982. He was accompanied by spacecraft commander Vance D. Brand and two mission specialists, Dr. Joseph P. Allen and Dr. William B. Lenoir. STS-5, the first mission with a four-man crew, clearly demonstrated the Space Shuttle as fully operational by the successful first deployment of two commercial communications satellites from the orbiter’s payload bay. The mission marked the first use of the Payload Assist Module (PAM-D), and its new ejection system. Numerous flight tests were performed throughout the mission to document Shuttle performance during launch, boost, orbit, atmospheric entry and landing phases. STS-5 was the last flight to carry the Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) package to support flight testing. A Getaway Special, three Student Involvement Projects and medical experiments were also included on the mission. The STS-5 crew successfully concluded the 5-day orbital flight of Columbia with the first entry and landing through a cloud deck to a hard-surface runway and demonstrated maximum braking. Mission duration was 122 hours before landing on a concrete runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on November 16, 1982.[1]

Overmyer aiming a camera out of an overhead window of Space Shuttle Challenger during the STS-51-B mission.

Colonel Overmyer was the commander of STS-51-B, the Spacelab-3 (SL-3) mission. He commanded a crew of four astronauts and two payload specialists conducting a broad range of scientific experiments from space physics to the suitability of animal holding facilities. STS-51-B was also the first Shuttle flight to launch a small payload from a "Getaway Special" canister. STS-51-B launched at 12:02 p.m. EDT on April 29, 1985 from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, at 9:11 a.m. PDT on May 6, 1985. STS-51-B completed 110 orbits of the earth at an altitude of 190 nautical miles.[1]

Colonel Overmyer retired from NASA and the Marine Corps in May 1986.[1] Also in 1986, Overmyer was one of NASA's lead investigators into the Challenger disaster.

Personal life[edit]

Overmyer was a member of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots, Experimental Aircraft Association, and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. His hobbies included skiing, water skiing, boating, aerobatic flying in open cockpit biplanes, coaching baseball, and running.[1]


Overmyer died in a plane crash on March 22, 1996 in Duluth, Minnesota while testing the Cirrus VK-30 light kit aircraft.[2] He is survived by his wife, Katherine, and three children.[1]

Overmyer, second from left, with fellow crew members of STS-51-B.


Overmyer was awarded the Air Force Meritorious Service Medal in 1969 for duties with the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program; awarded the Marine Corps Meritorious Service Medal in 1978 for duties as the Chief Chase Pilot and support crewman for the Shuttle Approach and Landing Test Program; received an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from Baldwin Wallace College, December 1982; awarded the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School Distinguished Engineers Award, January 1983; the Distinguished Flying Cross (1983); and the NASA Space Flight Medal (1983).[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i National Aeronautics and Space Administration (March 1996). "Astronaut Bio: Robert Overmyer 3/96". NASA. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Robert Franklin Overmyer, Colonel, United States Marine Corps & American Astronaut". Michael Robert Patterson. May 15, 2006. Retrieved April 17, 2012. 

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