Brian O'Leary

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Brian T. O'Leary
Brian O'Leary.jpg
BornJanuary 27, 1940
DiedJuly 28, 2011(2011-07-28) (aged 71)
Other namesBrian Todd O'Leary
Alma materWilliams College, B.A. 1961
Georgetown University, M.A. 1964
UC Berkeley, Ph.D. 1967
Space career
NASA Astronaut
SelectionNASA Astronaut Group 6 1967
MissionsNone, resigned before completing initial training
RetirementApril 23, 1968
Scientific career
ThesisMars: visible and near infrared studies and the composition of the surface. (1967)

Brian Todd O'Leary (January 27, 1940 – July 28, 2011)[1] was an American scientist, author, and NASA astronaut. He was part of NASA Astronaut Group 6,[1] a group of scientist-astronauts chosen with the intention of training for the Apollo Applications Program.


O'Leary was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts on January 27, 1940. He decided to become an astronaut after visiting Washington, D.C. as a teenager.[2] On December 1, 1983, O'Leary was married to Delores Marie Lefkowitz, also known as Dee Davenport, in Yarmouth, Massachusetts.[3]


O'Leary graduated from Belmont High School in 1957. He received a B.A. in physics from Williams College in 1961, an M.A. in astronomy from Georgetown University in 1964, and a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Berkeley in 1967.[1]


O'Leary became a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1975.[1] From 1970–1976, he was the secretary of the American Geophysical Union's Planetology Section. In 1977, he worked on Asteroidal Resources Group, NASA Ames Summer Study on Space Settlements as team leader.[1]

Astronaut program[edit]

The members of NASA Astronaut Group 6. O'Leary is at the far right.

During his graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, O'Leary published several scientific papers on the atmosphere of Mars.[4][5][6] O'Leary's Ph.D. thesis in 1967 was on the Martian surface.[7] Because of his professional specialty and youth, O'Leary was selected as an astronaut in conjunction with a possible NASA human mission to Mars then envisaged for the 1980s contingent on post-Apollo funding.[1][8] O'Leary was the only planetary scientist in the NASA Astronaut Corps during the Apollo program.[9] In April 1968, O'Leary resigned from the Astronaut Corps prior to completing the training program.[10]

Academic career[edit]

After O'Leary's resignation from NASA, Carl Sagan invited him to lecture at Cornell University in 1968, where he stayed until 1971 as a research associate (1968–1969) and assistant professor (1969–1971) of astronomy. While at Cornell, he studied lunar mascons.[11][12] During the 1970–1971 academic year, O'Leary was deputy team leader of the Mariner 10 Venus-Mercury TV Science Team as a visiting researcher at the California Institute of Technology.[13][14][15][16][17] The team received NASA's group achievement award for its participation.[18] He later taught at San Francisco State University (associate professor of astronomy and interdisciplinary sciences; 1971–1972), the UC Berkeley School of Law (visiting associate professor; 1971–1972), Hampshire College (assistant professor of astronomy and science policy assessment; 1972–1975), Princeton University (research staff and lecturer in physics; 1976–1981) and California State University, Long Beach (visiting lecturer in physics; 1986–1987).[19][20]

At Princeton, he was involved with Gerard K. O'Neill and the L5 Society's orbiting city plans.[21][22][23][24] He suggested that passing asteroids and the moons of Mars would be the easiest to access resources for space colonies.[25][26][27][28][29][30][31]

O'Leary wrote and edited books on astronomy and astronautics.[32][33]

Political activities[edit]

O'Leary became politically active early in his career and participated in a demonstration in Washington, D.C. in 1970, to protest the Cambodian Campaign. Richard Nixon administration officials invited O'Leary and his fellow Cornell professors to present their views.[34][35] In 1975 and 1976, he worked on Morris Udall's presidential campaign as an energy advisor, as well as for the U.S. House Interior Committee subcommittee on energy and the environment as Udall's special staff consultant on energy.[20] O'Leary worked for U.S. presidential candidates Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, George McGovern, and Walter Mondale.[9][36]

During those years, he wrote about the Space Shuttle, NASA's lunar landings, and the weaponization of space.[37][38][39][40][41] O'Leary traveled to the Soviet Union twice in the late 1980s with the aim of promoting peaceful space exploration, including a peace cruise along the Dnieper River.[42]

Frontiers of science[edit]

A remote viewing experience in 1979[43] and a near-death experience in 1982[44] initiated O'Leary's departure from orthodox science. After Princeton, O'Leary worked at Science Applications International Corporation.[20] He refused to work on military space applications, for which reason he lost his position there in 1987.[45] Beginning in 1987, O'Leary increasingly explored unorthodox ideas, particularly the relationship between consciousness and science, and became widely known for his writings on "the frontiers of science, space, energy and culture".[20][46]

Since the 1980s, he lectured at the Findhorn Foundation, Esalen Institute, Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, Unity Churches, Religious Science churches and Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centres.[47][48]

With artist Meredith Miller, his wife, he co-founded the Montesueños Eco-Retreat in Vilcabamba, Ecuador in 2008, which is devoted to "peace, sustainability, the arts and new science".[49]


O'Leary contracted skin cancer in his 60s, which he treated with an alternative methodology involving a substance called Cansema. After surviving his second heart attack (precipitated by an ayahuasca ceremony)[50] in 2010, he died of intestinal cancer on July 28, 2011, soon after diagnosis, at his home in Vilcabamba.


  • The Making of an Ex-Astronaut 1970. ISBN 0671772856.
  • The Fertile Stars 1981. ISBN 089696079X.
  • Project Space Station 1983. ISBN 0811717011.
  • Mars 1999 1987. ISBN 0811709825.
  • Exploring Inner & Outer Space 1989. ISBN 155643068X.
  • The Second Coming of Science 1993. ISBN 155643152X.
  • Miracle in the Void: Free Energy, UFOs and Other Scientific Revelations 1996. ISBN 096478260X.
  • Reinheriting the Earth 2003. ISBN 0939040379.
  • The Energy Solution Revolution 2009. ISBN 0979917646.


  1. ^ a b c d e f National Aeronautics and Space Administration (August 2011). "Astronaut Bio: Brian T. O'Leary". NASA. Archived from the original on December 26, 2016. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  2. ^ O'Leary, Brian (2009). The Energy Solution Revolution. Bridger House Publishers, Inc. pp. 176–177. ISBN 978-0-9799176-4-6.
  3. ^ Certificate of Marriage: Barnstable 410
  4. ^ Among the papers on Mars published before O'Leary's astronaut selection were: Rea, D.G.; O'Leary, B.T. (1965). "Visible Polarization Data of Mars". Nature. 206 (4989): 1138–1140. Bibcode:1965Natur.206.1138R. doi:10.1038/2061138a0. S2CID 4292231.
  5. ^ O'Leary, Brian T. (1965). "A Revised Upper Limit of NO2 in the Martian Atmosphere" (PDF). Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific. 12 (456): 168. Bibcode:1965PASP...77..168O. doi:10.1086/128188.; Rea, D.G.; O'Leary, B.T.; Sinton, W.M. (March 12, 1965). "Mars: The Origin of the 3.58- and 3.69-Micron Minima in the Infrared Spectra". Science. 147 (3663): 1286–88. Bibcode:1965Sci...147.1286R. doi:10.1126/science.147.3663.1286. PMID 17790823. S2CID 38382948.
  6. ^ O'Leary, B.T; Rea, D.G. (January 20, 1967). "Mars: Influence of Topography on Formation of Temporary Bright Patches". Science. 155 (3760): 317–319. Bibcode:1967Sci...155..317O. doi:10.1126/science.155.3760.317. PMID 17792055. S2CID 29060847.
  7. ^ O'Leary's PhD thesis: O'Leary, Brian T. (1967). Mars: Visible and Near Infrared Studies and the Composition of the Surface (PDF). Department of Astronomy, University of California, Berkeley. Abstract in: Astronomical Journal. American Institute of Physics. 1967. p. 317.
  8. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1970). The Making of an Ex-Astronaut. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-671-77285-7.
  9. ^ a b Shayler, David J.; Burgess, Colin (2006). NASA's Scientist-Astronauts. Springer Praxis Books. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-387-21897-7.
  10. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1970). The Making of an Ex-Astronaut. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 198–199. ISBN 978-0-671-77285-7.
  11. ^ O'Leary, B.T. (1968). "The influence of lunar mascons on its dynamical figure". Nature. 220 (5174): 1309. Bibcode:1968Natur.220.1309O. doi:10.1038/2201309a0. S2CID 4167123.; O'Leary, Brian T.; Campbell, Malcolm J.; Sagan, Carl (August 15, 1969). "Lunar and Planetary Mass Concentrations". Science. 165 (3894): 651–657. Bibcode:1969Sci...165..651O. doi:10.1126/science.165.3894.651. PMID 17780710.
  12. ^ Campbell, Malcolm J.; O'Leary, Brian T.; Sagan, Carl (June 13, 1968). "Moon: Two New Mascon Basins". Science. 164 (3885): 1273–75. Bibcode:1969Sci...164.1273C. doi:10.1126/science.164.3885.1273. PMID 17772565. S2CID 44720892.
  13. ^ "C.V.of Dr. Brian O'Leary". Archived from the original on September 16, 2008.
  14. ^ Murray, Bruce C.; Brian O'Leary; et al. (March 29, 1974). "Venus: Atmospheric Motion and Structure from Mariner 10 Pictures". Science. 183 (4131): 1307–1315. Bibcode:1974Sci...183.1307M. doi:10.1126/science.183.4131.1307. PMID 17791373. S2CID 25469486.
  15. ^ Murray, Bruce C.; Brian O'Leary; et al. (July 12, 1974). "Mercury's Surface: Preliminary Description and Interpretation from Mariner 10 Pictures". Science. 185 (4146): 169–179. Bibcode:1974Sci...185..169M. doi:10.1126/science.185.4146.169. PMID 17810511. S2CID 39925871.
  16. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1975). "Venus: vertical structure of stratospheric hazes from Mariner 10 pictures". Journal of the Atmospheric Sciences. 32 (6): 1091–1100. Bibcode:1975JAtS...32.1091O. doi:10.1175/1520-0469(1975)032<1091:VVSOSH>2.0.CO;2. ISSN 1520-0469.
  17. ^ O'Leary, "Comments on Mariner 10 and Ground-based UV observations of Venus", Conference on the atmosphere of Venus, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, October 1974, pp. 63–68, and in same publication: O'Leary, "Stratospheric hazes from Mariner 10 limb pictures of Venus", pp. 129–132.
  18. ^ "appendix d". SP-424 The Voyage of Mariner 10. NASA. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  19. ^ "Curriculum Vitaeand Selected Bibliography".
  20. ^ a b c d Shayler and Burgess, p. 524.
  21. ^ O'Leary, Brian T.; O'Neill, Gerard K. (September 1979). "Space Manufacturing, Satellite Power and Human Exploration". Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. Maney Publishing. 4 (3): 193–207. Bibcode:1979ISRv....4..193O. doi:10.1179/030801879789768144.
  22. ^ O'Neill, Gerard K.; Driggers, G.; O'Leary, B. (1980). "New Routes to Manufacturing in Space". Astronautics and Aeronautics. 18: 46–51. Bibcode:1980AsAer..18...46G.
  23. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1982). Space Industrialization — Volume 1. Vol. 1. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-5890-6.
  24. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1982). Space Industrialization — Volume 2. Vol. 2. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-5891-3.
  25. ^ O'Leary, Brian (July 22, 1977). "Mining the Apollo and Amor Asteroids". Science. 197 (4301): 363–366. Bibcode:1977Sci...197..363O. doi:10.1126/science.197.4301.363-a. PMID 17797965. S2CID 45597532.
  26. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1983). Burke, James D.; Whitt, April S (eds.). "Mining the Earth-Approaching Asteroids for Their Precious and Strategic Metals". Advances in the Astronautical Sciences. Proceedings of Princeton Conference on Space Manufacturing. San Diego, CA: American Astronautical Society. 53: 375–389.; O'Leary, Brian (1984). McKay, Christopher (ed.). "Phobos & Deimos as Resource & Exploration Centers". The Case for Mars II. Presented at the 2nd Case For Mars conference, Boulder. Boulder, Colorado: American Astronautical Society. 81–164: 225–245.
  27. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1989). McKay, Christopher (ed.). "Mars 1999: A Concept for Low-Cost Near Term Human Exploration and Propulsion Processing on Phobos and Deimos". Case for Mars III. American Astronautical Society. 204.
  28. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1985). "Rationales for Early Human Missions to Phobos and Deimos". In Mendell, W.W (ed.). Lunar Bases and Space Activities of the 21st Century. Lunar and Planetary Institute. p. 154. ISBN 978-0-942862-02-7.
  29. ^ O'Neill, G.; O'Leary, B., eds. (1977). Space Manufacturing from Nonterrestrial Materials – in Progress in Astronautics and Aeronautics. vol. 57. AIAA.
  30. ^ Billingham, John; Gilbreath, William; O'Leary, Brian, eds. (1979). Space Resources and Space Settlements. SP-428. Washington, D.C.: NASA. Archived from the original on February 4, 2020. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
  31. ^ O'Leary, Brian; Gaffey, Michael J.; Ross, David J.; Salkeld, Robert (1979). "Retrieval of Asteroidal Materials". In John Billingham; William Gilbreath; Brian O'Leary (eds.). Space Resources and Space Settlements. SP-428. Washington, D.C.: NASA. pp. 142–154. Archived from the original on December 21, 2010. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
  32. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1981). The Fertile Stars. Everest House. ISBN 978-0-89696-079-4.
  33. ^ Beatty, J. Kelly; O'Leary, Brian; Chaikin, Andrew, eds. (1981). The New Solar System. Cambridge University Press and Sky Publishing Corp. ISBN 978-0-521-23881-6.
  34. ^ CBS Special - "Colleges, Cambodia, and Confrontation", originally aired on May 9, 1970.
  35. ^ O'Leary, Brian (2009). The Energy Solution Revolution. Bridger House Publishers, Inc. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-9799176-4-6.
  36. ^ O'Leary, Brian (2009). The Energy Solution Revolution. Bridger House Publishers, Inc. pp. 189–198. ISBN 978-0-9799176-4-6.
  37. ^ O'Leary, B. (April 25, 1977). "Topics — Science — Or Stunts — On the Moon?". The New York Times.
  38. ^ O'Leary, B. (January 20, 1971). "The Wild Blue Space Shuttle". The New York Times.
  39. ^ O'Leary, B. (February 16, 1972). "Do We Really Want a Space Shuttle?". The New York Times.
  40. ^ O'Leary, B. (April 6, 1981). "Space Hawks: Military Race to Keep Shuttle Flying". The Globe and Mail.
  41. ^ O'Leary, B. (January 22, 1984). "Wanted: A Space Program that will Fly into the Future". Los Angeles Times.
  42. ^ "Peace Cruise on the Dnieper". Soviet Life: 16. February 1990.
  43. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1989). Exploring Inner and Outer Space. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books. pp. 6–9. ISBN 978-1-55643-068-8.
  44. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1989). Exploring Inner and Outer Space. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books. pp. 131–132. ISBN 978-1-55643-068-8.
  45. ^ O'Leary, Brian (2009). The Energy Solution Revolution. Bridger House Publishers, Inc. pp. 180–181. ISBN 978-0-9799176-4-6.
  46. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1989). Exploring Inner and Outer Space. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-55643-068-8.; O'Leary, Brian (1993). The Second Coming of Science. Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-55643-152-4.
  47. ^ O'Leary, Brian (1996). Miracle in the Void. Kihei, Hawaii: Kamapua'a Press. ISBN 978-0-9647826-0-0.
  48. ^ O'Leary, Brian (2003). Re-Inheriting the Earth. self-published. ISBN 978-0-939040-37-7.
  49. ^ "Montesuenos: A center for peace, sustainability, the arts and new science". Montesueños Eco-Retreat. Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  50. ^ "Decades of Magical Thinking: Dr. Brian O'Leary's Final Years - National Space Society". April 16, 2020.

External links[edit]