Chief of the Astronaut Office

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Chief of the Astronaut Office of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration
NASA seal.svg
Gregory R. Wiseman, official portrait.jpg
Gregory R. Wiseman

since December 20, 2020
NASA Astronaut Corps
First holderDeke Slayton
DeputyAndrew Feustel

The Chief of the Astronaut Office is the most senior leadership position for active astronauts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Chief Astronaut serves as head of the NASA Astronaut Corps and is the principal advisor to the NASA Administrator on astronaut training and operations.


When Deke Slayton was grounded from the Mercury Seven due to a heart condition, he took on the position of Coordinator of Astronaut Activities and informally held the title of "chief astronaut". In this role, he held responsibility for the operation of the astronaut office.[1]

The position of Chief of the Astronaut Office was officially created in July 1964, when Alan Shepard was named as the first Chief Astronaut. His responsibilities included monitoring the coordination, scheduling, and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts. This included monitoring the development and implementation of effective training programs to assure the flight readiness of available pilot and non-pilot personnel for assignment to crew positions on crewed space flights; furnishing pilot evaluations applicable to the design, construction, and operations of spacecraft systems and related equipment; and providing qualitative scientific and engineering observations to facilitate overall mission planning, formulation of feasible operational procedures, and selection and conduct of specific experiments for each flight.[2]

The Chief of the Astronaut Office often returns to active duty once their term is complete. The Chief is currently responsible for managing Astronaut Office resources and operations, and helps develop astronaut flight crew operation concepts and crew assignments for future spaceflight missions.[3]

List of Chief Astronauts[edit]

# Portrait Name NASA Group Started Resigned Deputies Notes
1 Deke Slayton 1962 portrait.jpg Deke Slayton 1959 NASA Group 1 September 18, 1962 July 8, 1964 unofficial
2 Alan-shepard.jpg Alan Shepard 1959 NASA Group 1 July 8, 1964 August 7, 1969
3 Thomas Stafford.jpg Tom Stafford 1962 NASA Group 2 August 7, 1969 June 25, 1971 Stafford held the position while Shepard prepared for and flew Apollo 14.
4 Business suit portrait of Al Shepard.jpg Alan Shepard 1959 NASA Group 1 June 25, 1971 January 14, 1974
5 Astronaut John Young official portrait.jpg John Young 1962 NASA Group 2 January 14, 1974 April 15, 1987 Paul J. Weitz Acting Chief during STS-1 training was Alan Bean.[4]
6 Daniel Brandenstein.jpg Dan Brandenstein 1978 NASA Group 8 April 27, 1987 October 1992 Steven Hawley Hawley was Acting Chief while Brandenstein prepared for and flew STS-49, the first flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour.
7 Gibson-rl.jpg Robert Gibson 1978 NASA Group 8 December 8, 1992 September 6, 1994 Linda Godwin Gibson handed the position over to Cabana to begin training for STS-71, the first Shuttle docking to Mir.
8 Robert Cabana.jpg Robert Cabana 1985 NASA Group 11 September 6, 1994 October 1997 Linda Godwin Cabana handed the position over to Cockrell to begin training for STS-88, the first International Space Station assembly mission.
9 Ken Cockrell.jpg Kenneth Cockrell 1990 NASA Group 13 October 1997 October 1998 Cockrell later flew two Shuttle missions.
10 Charles Precourt - Official portrait of astronaut.jpg Charles Precourt 1990 NASA Group 13 October 1998 November 2002 Kent Rominger and Steve Smith
11 Kent Rominger.jpg Kent Rominger 1992 NASA Group 14 November 2002 September 2006 Andy Thomas and Peggy Whitson
12 Steven W. Lindsey.jpg Steven W. Lindsey 1994 NASA Group 15 September 2006 October 2009 Janet Kavandi and Sunita Williams (February 2008 to October 2009). Lindsey resigned when he was assigned to command STS-133, which at the time was planned to be the final Space Shuttle mission.
Peggy Whitson 1996 NASA Group 16 October 2009 July 2012 Rick Sturckow (October 2009 to August 2011); Michael Barratt, MD, and then subsequently Robert Behnken and Eric Boe Whitson was the first woman and first non-pilot to serve as Chief Astronaut. She resigned when she went back on active flight status.[5]
14 Robert L. Behnken in 2018.jpg Robert Behnken 2000 NASA Group 18 July 2012 July 2015 Eric Boe Behnken and Boe both returned to flight status, working on the Commercial Crew Program Bhenken later flew on SpaceX Crew Demo 2.
15 Chris Cassidy - Official NASA Astronaut Portrait in EMU.jpg Christopher Cassidy 2004 NASA Group 19 July 2015 June 2, 2017 Patrick Forrester Cassidy returned to flight status, and was assigned to Expedition 62/63.
16 Patrick Forrester.jpg Patrick Forrester 1996 NASA Group 16 June 2, 2017 December 20, 2020 Gregory R. Wiseman, Megan McArthur Behnken, Scott Tingle Forrester took a leave of absence to pursue a personal opportunity outside of NASA.
17 Gregory R. Wiseman, official portrait.jpg Gregory R. Wiseman 2009 NASA Group 20 December 20, 2020 Present Andrew Feustel

In popular culture[edit]

In For All Mankind, an American alternate history streaming series, Slayton holds the office until he selects himself for duty onboard Apollo 24, aboard which he dies when the mission ends in disaster. He is succeeded by main character Ed Baldwin, who is himself succeeded by Molly Cobb after Baldwin assigns himself to command the first flight of NASA's new nuclear-powered space shuttle.


  1. ^ "Astronaut Bio: Deke Slayton 6/93". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  2. ^ "Astronaut Bio: Alan B. Shepard, Jr. 7/98". Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  3. ^ "NASA Names Astronaut Reid Wiseman New Chief of Astronaut Office". 17 December 2020. Retrieved 2020-12-17.
  4. ^ "Alan Bean, Astronaut Speakers". Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
  5. ^ "NASA - NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Resumes Training For STS-134 Mission". 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2014-07-13.