|Donald K. Slayton|
March 1, 1924|
Sparta, Wisconsin, U.S.
|Died||June 13, 1993
League City, Texas, U.S.
|Donald Kent Slayton|
|Bomber pilot, test pilot|
|University of Minnesota, B.S. 1949|
Time in space
|9d 01h 28m|
|Selection||1959 NASA Group 1|
|Missions||Apollo–Soyuz Test Project|
|Retirement||February 27, 1982|
James H. Doolittle Award
Donald Kent Slayton (March 1, 1924 – June 13, 1993), (Major, USAF), better known as Deke Slayton, was an American World War II pilot, aeronautical engineer, test pilot who was selected as one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts, and became NASA's first Chief of the Astronaut Office.
After joining NASA, Slayton was selected to pilot the second U.S. manned orbital spaceflight, but was grounded in 1962 by atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm. He then served as NASA's Director of Flight Crew Operations, making him responsible for crew assignments at NASA from November 1963 until March 1972. At that time he was granted medical clearance to fly, and was assigned as the docking module pilot of the 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, becoming the oldest person to fly in space at age 51. This record was surpassed in 1983 by 53 year old John Young and in 1998 by his fellow Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn, who at the age of 77 flew on Space Shuttle mission STS-95.
Slayton died at the age of 69 on June 13, 1993, from a malignant brain tumor.
- 1 Biography
- 2 Organizations
- 3 Awards and honors
- 4 Legacy
- 5 In media
- 6 Physical description
- 7 Books authored
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Bibliography
- 11 External links
Early life, education and military service
Slayton was born on March 1, 1924, on a farm near Sparta, Wisconsin, to parents Charles Sherman Slayton (1887–1972) and Victoria Adelia Slayton ( Larson; 1895–1970). He was of English and Norwegian descent. A childhood farm equipment accident left him with a severed left ring finger. He attended elementary school in Leon, Wisconsin, and graduated from Sparta High School in 1942.
He entered the United States Army Air Forces as a cadet in 1942, training as a B-25 bomber pilot and received his wings in April 1943 after completing flight training at Vernon and Waco, Texas. He flew 56 combat missions with the 340th Bombardment Group over Europe during World War II and later flew seven combat missions over Japan in a Douglas A-26 Invader as part of the 319th Bombardment Group. In the meantime, he returned to the United States in mid-1944 as a B-25 instructor pilot at Columbia, South Carolina, and later served with a unit responsible for checking pilot proficiency on the A-26 light bomber.
After the war, Slayton graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Minnesota, in 1949. Following graduation, he worked for two years as an engineer with the Boeing Aircraft Corporation at Seattle, Washington before being recalled to active duty in 1951 with the Minnesota Air National Guard.
Upon reporting for duty, Slayton was a maintenance flight test officer of an F-51 squadron located in Minneapolis, then served eighteen months as a technical inspector at Headquarters Twelfth Air Force, and a tour as fighter pilot and maintenance officer with the 36th Fighter Day Wing at Bitburg Air Base, West Germany. He graduated from the Air Command and Staff College in 1952.
Returning to the United States in June 1955, Slayton attended and graduated from USAF Test Pilot School to became a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California. He tested supersonic Air Force fighters, including the F-101, F-102, F-105, and F-106, and was responsible for determining stall-spin characteristics for the large F-105, which became the principal fighter bomber used by the USAF over North Vietnam.
In his Air Force career, he logged 7,164 hours flying time including more than 5,100 hours in jet aircraft.
In 1959, Slayton was one of 110 military test pilots selected by their commanding officers as candidates for the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Project Mercury, the first U.S. manned space flight program. Following a gruelling series of physical and psychological tests, NASA selected Slayton to be one of the original group of seven Mercury astronauts.
He was scheduled to fly in 1962 on the second orbital flight Mercury-Atlas 7, which he would have named Delta 7 (after the fourth letter in the Greek alphabet since this was the fourth manned Mercury flight, and "7" designating the seven astronauts), but because of an erratic heart rate (idiopathic atrial fibrillation), he was grounded in September 1962. MA-7 was flown by his backup, Scott Carpenter, who named the flight Aurora 7. Slayton was the only member of the Mercury Seven who did not fly in the Mercury program.
Gemini and Apollo crew selection
When NASA grounded Slayton, the Air Force followed suit. From September 1, 1962 until November 1963, he obtained the unofficial title of "chief astronaut" when he took on the position of Coordinator of Astronaut Activities, which would later officially become Chief of the Astronaut Office. Slayton resigned his Air Force commission in 1963 and then worked for NASA in a civilian capacity as head of astronaut selection. He had the decisive role in choosing the crews for the Gemini and Apollo programs, including the decision of who would be the first person on the Moon.
Restored to full flight status
While grounded, Slayton took several measures to attempt to be restored to flight status, including a daily exercise program, quitting cigarette smoking and coffee, and drastically reducing consumption of alcoholic beverages. He also took massive doses of vitamins, and for a time took daily doses of quinidine, a crystalline alkaloid.
In July 1970 the fibrillation ceased, and a comprehensive review of his medical status by NASA's director of life sciences and the Federal Aviation Agency resulted in the full restoration of his flight status in March 1972. Slayton celebrated with an hour of aerobatic maneuvers in a NASA T-38 jet trainer.
After he was restored to flight status, Slayton was selected in February 1973 as docking module pilot for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, a docking between an American Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. The American crew immediately began an intensive two-year training program, which included learning the Russian language and making frequent trips to the USSR, where astronauts trained for weeks at Star City, the cosmonaut training center near Moscow. Slayton resigned as Director of Flight Crew Operations in February 1974.
On July 17, 1975, the two craft joined up in orbit, and astronauts Slayton, Thomas P. Stafford and Vance D. Brand conducted crew transfers with cosmonauts Alexey Leonov and Valeri Kubasov. At the end of the flight, an erroneous switch setting led to the introduction of noxious fumes into the Apollo cabin during landing, and the crew was hospitalized as a precaution in Honolulu, Hawaii, for two weeks. During hospitalization, a lesion was discovered on Slayton's lung and removed. It was determined to be benign.
During his first and only spaceflight, he spent 217 hours in space.
Space Shuttle program
After the Apollo–Soyuz flight, he became head of the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) of NASA's Space Shuttle.
Following the ALT program, Slayton served as Manager for Orbital Flight Test, directing orbital flight mission preparations and conducting mission operations. He was responsible for OFT operations scheduling, mission configuration control, preflight stack configuration control, as well as conducting planning reviews, mission readiness reviews, and postflight mission evaluations. He was also responsible for the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft program.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (July 2009)|
Slayton retired from NASA in 1982. After retirement, he served as President of Space Services Inc., a Houston-based company earlier founded to develop rockets for small commercial payloads. He served as mission director for a rocket called the Conestoga, which was successfully launched on September 9, 1982, and was the world's first privately funded rocket to reach space. Slayton also became interested in aviation racing. In addition to serving as a consultant to some aerospace corporations, he was President of International Formula One Pylon Air Racing and Director of Columbia Astronautics. He also served on the Department of Transportation's Commercial Space Advisory Committee.
Slayton penned an autobiography with space historian Michael Cassutt entitled Deke!: U.S. Manned Space from Mercury to the Shuttle. As well as Slayton's own astronaut experiences, the book describes how Slayton made crew choice selections, including choosing the first person to walk on the Moon. Numerous astronauts have noted that only when reading this book did they learn why they had been selected for certain flights decades earlier.
Slayton's name also appears with three other co-authors, including fellow astronaut Alan Shepard, on the book Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon, published in 1994. The book was also made into a documentary film of the same name. Slayton died before either Moon Shot project was finished or released, and the book did not receive any input from him. However, the film was narrated from Slayton's point of view (voiced by Barry Corbin) and includes a brief tribute to him at the very end.
Deke married Marjorie "Marge" Lunney (born 1921) in May 1955. She was three years older than him, and previously divorced, a fact that she had to keep hidden from the press. They had one son, Kent Sherman, born April 8, 1957. They eventually divorced. Marjorie died in 1989 at the age of 67 or 68. The cause of death is unknown. Marge was the first of the Mercury astronaut wives to die, and the only woman to die before her Mercury astronaut husband.
Slayton's second wife was Bobbie Belle Jones (1945–2010). They married in 1983, and remained married until his death ten years later. His hobbies were hunting, fishing, shooting, and airplane racing.
Shortly after he moved to League City, Texas, in 1992, Slayton was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He died from the illness, at the age of 69, on June 13, 1993. He was the second Mercury astronaut to die (Gus Grissom died in a NASA fire in 1967).
Slayton was a member of numerous organizations. He was a fellow of the Society of Experimental Test Pilots and the American Astronautical Society; associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics; member of the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Space Pioneers, and the Confederate Air Force; life member of the Order of Daedalians, the National Rifle Association of America, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Fraternal Order of Eagles; honorary member of the American Fighter Aces Association, the National WWII Glider Pilots Association and the Association of Space Explorers.
Awards and honors
Military and NASA decorations and medals -
Slayton's other awards include -
The Collier Trophy; the SETP Iven C. Kincheloe Award; the Gen. Billy Mitchell Award; the John J. Montgomery Award (1963); the SETP James H. Doolittle Award (1972); the National Institute of Social Sciences Gold Medal (1975); the Zeta Beta Tau’s Richard Gottheil Medal (1975); the Wright Brothers International Manned Space Flight Award (1975); the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Space Award (1976); the American Heart Association’s Heart of the Year Award (1976); the FAI Yuri Gagarin Gold Medal (1976); 3the District 35-R Lions International American of the Year Award (1976); the AIAA Special Presidential Citation (1977); the University of Minnesota’s Outstanding Achievement Award (1977); the Houston Area Federal Business Association’s Civil Servant of the Year Award (1977); the AAS Flight Achievement Award for 1976 (1977); the AIAA Haley Astronautics Award for 1978; Honorary D.Sc. from Carthage College, Carthage, Illinois, in 1961; Honorary Doctorate in Engineering from Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, in 1965.
The Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bicycle Museum in Sparta, Wisconsin, was named in his honor. The Slayton biographical exhibit includes his Mercury space suit, his Ambassador of Exploration Award, which showcases a lunar sample, and more. In nearby La Crosse, Wisconsin, an annual summer aircraft air show, the Deke Slayton Airfest, has been held in his honor, featuring modern and vintage military and civilian aircraft, along with NASA speakers.
- In the 1983 film The Right Stuff Slayton was played by Scott Paulin.
- In the 1995 film Apollo 13 he was played by Chris Ellis.
- In the 1996 TV movie Apollo 11 he was played by Jack Conley.
- In the 1998 TV miniseries From the Earth to the Moon he was played by Nick Searcy.
- In the 2009 TV movie Moonshot he was played by Nigel Whitmey.
- Weight: 165 lb (75 kg)
- Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
- Hair: Gray
- Eyes: Blue
- Slayton, Donald K.; Cassutt, Michael (1994). Deke!: U.S. Manned Space: From Mercury to the Shuttle (1st ed.). New York: Forge. ISBN 0-312-85503-6. LCCN 94002463. OCLC 29845663.
- ——; Cassutt, Michael (1995) [Originally copyrighted 1994]. Deke!. New York: Forge. ISBN 0-312-85918-X. LCCN 94002463. OCLC 42051303.
- ——; Shepard, Alan B.; Barbree, Jay; Benedict, Howard (1994). Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America’s Race to the Moon. Introduction by Neil Armstrong (1st ed.). Atlanta: Turner Publishing Company. ISBN 1-878685-54-6. LCCN 94003027. OCLC 29846731. Author in name only.
- ——; Carpenter, M. Scott; Cooper, L. Gordon, Jr.; Glenn, John H., Jr.; Grissom, Virgil I.; Schirra, Walter M., Jr.; Shepard, Alan B., Jr. (2010) [Originally published 1962]. We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. ISBN 978-1-4391-8103-4. LCCN 62019074. OCLC 429024791.
- "Astronaut Bio: Deke Slayton 6/93". NASA. June 1993. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- Slayton's NASA long biography
- Slayton's military career .history.nasa.gov
- Donald K. Slayton at the New Mexico Museum of Space History
- "Donald K "Deke" Slayton". Wisconsin Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
While at Edwards, Deke Slayton flew test flight missions on the F-101, F-102, F-105 and the F-106.
- Kranz 2000
- "Donald K. Slayton". International Space Hall of Fame. New Mexico Museum of Space History. Retrieved April 17, 2012.
- Donald K. Slayton at New Mexico Museum of Space History
- Slayton & Cassutt 1995, p. 185
- Slayton's NASA long biography
- Slayton's NASA long biography
- Abell, John C. (September 9, 2009). "September 9, 1982: 3-2-1 … Liftoff! The First Private Rocket Launch". Wired.com. Condé Nast. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- Deke Slayton post-NASA career .history.nasa.gov
- Slayton & Cassutt 1994
- Shepard & Slayton 1994
- Burgess 2011, p. 345
- Burgess 2011, p. 350
- Slayton's hobbies
- "Today in history". The New York Times. Associated Press. June 13, 2014. Retrieved June 13, 2014.
- Deke's memberships .space-explorers.org
- Warren-Findley, Jannelle (1998). "The Collier as Commemoration: The Project Mercury Astronauts and the Collier Trophy". In Mack, Pamela E. From Engineering Science to Big Science: The NACA and NASA Collier Trophy Research Project Winners. The NASA History Series. Washington, D.C.: NASA History Office, Office of Policy and Plans. p. 165. ISBN 0-16-049640-3. LCCN 97027899. OCLC 37451762. NASA SP-4219. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
- Deke Slayton inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
- Deke Slayton inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame Hall of Fame
- "National Aviation Hall of fame: Our Enshrinees". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
- "Texas Oncology-Deke Slayton Cancer Center". Retrieved February 10, 2011.
- "Bobbie Slayton dead at 65". Bay Area Citizen (Houston, TX: Houston Community Newspapers). November 29, 2010. Retrieved February 10, 2011.
- "Deke Slayton Memorial Space & Bicycle Museum". Retrieved February 10, 2011.
- The Right Stuff at the Internet Movie Database
- Apollo 13 at the Internet Movie Database
- Apollo 11 at the Internet Movie Database
- From The Earth to the Moon at the Internet Movie Database
- Moonshot at the Internet Movie Database
- Deke Slayton's physical description
- Burgess, Colin (2011). Selecting the Mercury Seven: The Search for America's First Astronauts. New York: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-1-4419-8405-0. ISBN 978-1-4419-8404-3. LCCN 2011925650. OCLC 747105631.
- Kranz, Gene (2000). Failure is Not an Option: Mission Control from Mercury to Apollo 13 and Beyond. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-0079-9. LCCN 00027720. OCLC 43590801.
...[H]e was one of the hot test pilots at Edwards Air Force Base, pushing the F-105 to its limits.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Deke Slayton.|
- Slayton's official NASA biography for 40th Anniversary of Mercury 7
- Slayton's official NASA short biography
- Iven C. Kincheloe Awards
- Deke Slayton Museum
- Deke Slayton Airfest
- About Deke Slayton
- Deke Slayton at the space-explorers.org
- Slayton at Spaceacts
- Slayton at Encyclopedia of Science
- Deke Slayton at the Internet Movie Database
- Deke Slayton at the National Aviation Hall of Fame
- Slayton at International Space Hall of Fame
- Astronautix biography of Deke Slayton
- Spacefacts biography of Deke Slayton
- Donald K. "Deke" Slayton at Find a Grave