Gary Payton (astronaut)

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Gary E. Payton
Gary Payton.jpg
USAF Astronaut
Nationality American
Status Retired
Born (1948-06-20) June 20, 1948 (age 68)
Rock Island, Illinois, U.S.
Other names
Gary Eugene Payton
Other occupation
Bradley University
USAFA, B.S. 1971
Purdue University, M.S. 1972
Rank Colonel, USAF
Time in space
3d 01h 33m
Selection 1979 USAF Group
Missions STS-51-C
Mission insignia

Colonel Gary Eugene Payton, USAF, (born June 20, 1948) is an American former astronaut.


Payton graduated from high school in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1966. He went on to attend Bradley University, in Peoria, Illinois. After one year at Bradley, he entered the United States Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Astronautical Engineering in 1971. He continued with his graduate education at Purdue University, in West Lafayette, Indiana, earning a Master of Science degree in Astronautical and Aeronautical Engineering in 1972. He graduated from pilot training at Craig AFB, in Alabama in 1973.


Payton served as a Spacecraft Test Controller from 1976 to 1980, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida. He was selected for the USAF Manned Spaceflight Engineer Program in February 1980.

Payton flew on the STS-51-C mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in January 1985 which launched from and returned to land at the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida. STS-51C was the first dedicated Space Shuttle Department of Defense mission. Payton traveled over 1.2 million miles in 48 Earth orbits, and logged more than 73 hours in space.[1]

Payton is a former Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for Space Programs.[2][3]

He has accumulated at least 1,080 hours in T-37, T-38 and T-39 aircraft.

Payton is currently Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Schriever Chair in Astronautics at the United States Air Force Academy, teaching Astronautical Engineering.[4]


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