James D. Halsell

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James D. Halsell
James Halsell.jpg
James Donald Halsell Jr.

(1956-09-29) September 29, 1956 (age 62)
OccupationTest Pilot
Space career
NASA Astronaut
RankColonel, USAF
Time in space
52d 10h 34m
Selection1990 NASA Group.
MissionsSTS-65, STS-74, STS-83, STS-94, STS-101
Mission insignia
Sts-65-patch.png Sts-74-patch.png Sts-83-patch.png Sts-94-patch.png Sts-101-patch.png

James Donald Halsell Jr. (born September 29, 1956), is a retired United States Air Force officer and a former NASA astronaut. He is a veteran of five Space Shuttle missions.


Halsell was born and raised in West Monroe, Louisiana and attended the United States Air Force Academy. Halsell earned a Master of Science in Management from Troy University in 1983 and a Master's degree in Space Operations from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1985.

Military career[edit]

Halsell graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1978, and from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi, in 1979. An F-4 pilot qualified in conventional and nuclear weapons deliveries, he served at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada, from 1980-1981, and Moody Air Force Base, Valdosta, Georgia, from 1982-1984. In 1984-1985, he was a graduate student at the Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio. He then attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and during the next four years he performed test flights in the F-4, F-16 and SR-71 aircraft. Halsell retired from the Air Force in July 2004.[1]

NASA career[edit]

Selected by NASA in January 1990, Halsell became an astronaut in July 1991. A five flight veteran, Halsell has logged over 1,250 hours in space. He was the pilot on STS-65 (July 8–23, 1994) and STS-74 (November 12–20, 1995), and commanded STS-83 (Apr 4-8, 1997), STS-94 (July 1–17, 1997) and STS-101 (May 19–29, 2000). From February–August 1998, he served as NASA Director of Operations at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, Star City, Russia. Halsell also served as Manager, Shuttle Launch Integration, Kennedy Space Center, Florida, from July 2000-January 2003.[1] Halsell was Space Shuttle Program manager for launch integration at the Kennedy Space Center from 2000–2002, responsible for giving the "go for launch" on 13 Shuttle missions. After the Columbia accident, he led the NASA Return to Flight Planning Team, responsible for converting the recommendations of the accident investigation board into Shuttle Program actions that resulted in resumption of missions in 2005. Following the Columbia accident, Halsell led NASA’s Space Shuttle Return-to-Flight Planning Team. He then served as the Assistant Director for Aircraft Operations, Flight Crew Operations Directorate. Halsell retired from NASA in November 2006 to accept a position with ATK Launch Systems where he served as Vice President, Space Exploration Systems, and was the ATK site manager at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL.

On October 10, 2011, Halsell joined Dynetics, Inc., as a technical director in their Space Division.


STS-65 flew the second International Microgravity Laboratory (IML-2). During the 15-day flight the crew conducted more than 80 experiments focusing on materials and life sciences research in microgravity. The mission was accomplished in 236 orbits of the Earth, traveling 6.1 million miles in 353 hours and 55 minutes.

STS-74 was NASA's second Space Shuttle mission to rendezvous and dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. During the 8-day flight the Atlantis crew successfully attached a permanent docking module to Mir and transferred over 2,000 pounds of food, water and scientific supplies for use by the cosmonauts. The STS-74 mission was accomplished in 129 orbits of the Earth, traveling 3.4 million miles in 196 hours, 30 minutes, 44 seconds.

STS-83, the Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1) Spacelab mission, was cut short because of problems with one of the Shuttle's three fuel cell power generation units. Mission duration was 95 hours and 12 minutes, traveling 1.5 million miles in 63 orbits of the Earth.

STS-94, a re-flight of the Microgravity Science Laboratory (MSL-1) Spacelab mission, focused on materials and combustion science research in microgravity. Mission duration was 376 hours and 45 minutes, traveling 6.3 million miles in 251 orbits of the Earth.

STS-101 was the third Shuttle mission devoted to International Space Station (ISS) construction. Objectives included transporting and installing over 5,000 pounds of equipment and supplies, and conducting a space walk. The mission was accomplished in 155 orbits of the Earth, traveling 4.1 million miles in 236 hours and 9 minutes.[1]

Murder charges[edit]

On June 6, 2016, Halsell was charged with two counts of murder as a result of an alleged DUI crash which killed two automobile passengers in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. According to Alabama Senior Trooper Reginal King, both excessive speed and alcohol were contributing factors in the collision. According to the police report of the incident, Halsell tried to steal, and make a getaway in, the car of another motorist who had stopped to help. After being booked, Halsell was released on a $150,000 bond.

On September 1, 2016, Halsell was indicted for the traffic deaths.[2] It is unclear what sentence he received, if any.

Halsell has had a previous history of driving while intoxicated. In 2014, he had a blood alcohol level of .12 after causing a crash in Palmdale, California, a city north of Los Angeles, CA. that is a major hub of the aerospace industry near Air Force Plant 42 and Edwards Air Force Base. In December of 2014, a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge sentenced Halsell to 60 months of probation, with the conditions that he not drive with alcohol or drugs in his system and mandatory submission to any drug, alcohol or chemical test. In the June 2016 Tuscaloosa, Alabama accident, Halsell refused to voluntarily provide a blood sample immediately after the crash.|url=https://www.tuscaloosanews.com/news/20170601/update-hearing-delayed-in-ex-astronauts-dui-death-case. |accessdate=1 July 2019}}</ref>


  1. ^ a b c "James D. Halsell, Jr., Pilot". Documents - STS-74 Biographies. NASA. Retrieved 10 June 2016. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  2. ^ Waldman, Leigh (7 June 2016). "Retired astronaut charged with murder in crash that killed 2 girls". cnn.com. CNN.com. Retrieved 7 June 2016.

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