Robert Crippen

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Robert Laurel Crippen
Robert Crippen.jpg
USAF/NASA Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Retired
Born (1937-09-11) September 11, 1937 (age 77)
Beaumont, Texas
Other occupation
Test pilot
UT, B.S. 1960
Rank Captain, USN
Time in space
23d 13h 46m
Selection 1966 USAF MOL Group 2, 1969 NASA Group 7
Missions STS-1, STS-7, STS-41-C, STS-41-G
Mission insignia
Sts-1-patch.png Sts-7-patch.png STS-41-C patch.png STS-41-G patch.png
Awards Congressional Space Medal of Honor

Robert Laurel Crippen (born September 11, 1937, in Beaumont, Texas) is a retired United States Navy Captain and former astronaut for the United States Department of Defense and for NASA. He was the pilot of the first Space Shuttle flight and flew three more missions as commander. Crippen received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Education and training[edit]

After graduating from New Caney High School in New Caney, Texas, Crippen received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1960.[1][2] He was selected as a member of the Texas Alpha chapter of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Gamma Tau.


Crippen was commissioned through the United States Navy's Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) Program. As a Navy pilot from June 1962 to November 1964, he made two deployments aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72). He later attended the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Upon graduation he remained at Edwards as an instructor until he was picked for the US Air Force Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) spaceflight program in October 1966.

Crippen with a MOL spacesuit.

After the MOL program was cancelled, Crippen became a NASA astronaut in September 1969. He served on the astronaut support crew for the Skylab 2, Skylab 3, and Skylab 4 missions and for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission. He was the pilot of the first orbital test flight of the Space Shuttle program (STS-1, April 12–14, 1981) and was the commander of three additional Shuttle flights: STS-7, June 18–24, 1983; STS-41-C, April 6–13, 1984; and STS-41-G, October 6–13, 1984. In addition to participating in the first Shuttle flight, he also presided over the first five-person crew (STS-7, which included Sally Ride, the first American woman in space), the first satellite repair operation (STS-41-C, which repaired the Solar Maximum Mission satellite), and the first seven-person crew (STS-41-G). He was named commander of the STS-62-A mission which would have launched from the new SLC-6 facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. That mission was cancelled after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and SLC-6 was closed when the Air Force went back to launching satellites on the Titan III and Titan IV rockets.

John Young and Crippen suiting up prior to the STS-1 mission.

Crippen was stationed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, from July 1987 to December 1989, as Deputy Director, Shuttle Operations for NASA Headquarters. He was responsible for final Shuttle preparation, mission execution and return of the orbiter to KSC after landings at Edwards Air Force Base. From January 1990 to January 1992, he served as Director, Space Shuttle, at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. As such, he was responsible for the overall Shuttle program requirements, performance, and total program control, including budget, schedule and program content. He subsequently served as the Director of the Kennedy Space Center from January 1992 to January 1995. During his tenure, the center processed, safely launched, and recovered 22 Space Shuttle missions. He led more than 13,000 civil service and contractor personnel. This included oversight of multiple contracts supporting center operations for manned and unmanned spaceflight. He also cut costs more than 25% with quality management techniques.[citation needed]

After leaving NASA, Crippen served as a vice president with Lockheed Martin Information Systems in Orlando, Florida, from April 1995 to November 1996. From December 1996 to April 2001, Crippen was president of Thiokol Propulsion, which produces the Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motors and other defense and commercial solid rocket motors.

Awards and honors[edit]

Sign of Crippen Elementary School in Porter, Texas, named after Robert Crippen

Crippen's accomplishments have earned him many notable awards, including the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1972. In 1981 after the inaugural Space Shuttle flight, he received the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the American Astronautical Society's Flight Achievement Award, the National Geographic Society's Gardiner Greene Hubbard Medal, and the American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal. In 1982 he won the Federal Aviation Administration's Award for Distinguished Service, the Goddard Memorial Trophy and the Harmon Trophy. In 1984 he received the Navy Distinguished Flying Cross and the Defense Meritorious Service Medal.

He also received NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 1988 and three NASA Distinguished Service Medals in 1985, 1988, and 1993. In 1996, Crippen became the tenth individual to receive the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement's National Space Trophy. He was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1991 and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2001. On April 6, 2006, he received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, the highest award for spaceflight achievement. He is also a fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, American Astronautical Society and Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He served as President of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in 1999–2000. He was selected to be a member of Naval Aviators Golden Eagles in 2009. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2012.

Personal life[edit]

Crippen's first marriage produced three daughters. His second marriage is to Pandora Lee Puckett of Miami, Florida, NASA’s first female lead Orbiter Project Engineer on the Space Shuttle Atlantis and Challenger at the Kennedy Space Center.


External links[edit]