Crippen, Robert

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Crippen, Robert

American Astronaut 1937-

Robert Crippen has been a major contributor to America's space exploration efforts. From making the first historic flight of the space shuttle, to directing the Kennedy Space Center, to exploring opportunities in the private sector, Crippen has provided experience and leadership for both piloted and unpiloted spaceflight.

Crippen was born in Beaumont, Texas, on September 11, 1937. He graduated from New Caney High School in Caney, Texas, and received a bachelor of science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Texas in 1960.

Crippen received his commission through the U.S. Navy's Aviation Officer Program at Pensacola, Florida. He continued his flight training at Whiting Field, Florida, and went from there to Chase Field in Beeville, Texas, where he received his "wings," becoming a qualified pilot. From June 1962 to November 1964, he was assigned to Fleet Squadron VA-72, where he completed two and a half years of duty as an attack pilot aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence. He later attended the U.S. Air Force (USAF) Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and remained there as an instructor after his graduation. In October 1966, Crippen was among the second group of aerospace research pilots to be selected to the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory Program.

Crippen joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as an astronaut in September 1969 following the cancellation of the Manned Orbiting Laboratory program. He was a crewmember of the Skylab Medical Experiments Altitude Test, a fifty-six-day simulation of the Skylab mission. He was also a member of the astronaut support crew for the Skylab 2, 3, and 4 missions and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission. Crippen's first spaceflight was in 1981, as pilot of STS-1, the first space shuttle mission. In 1983 Crippen was spacecraft commander of STS-7. He completed two more space shuttle flights as commander in 1984.

In 1987 Crippen was stationed at NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center (KSC) serving as the deputy director of shuttle operations for NASA Headquarters. He was responsible for final shuttle preparation, mission execution, and the return of the orbiter to KSC following landings at Edwards Air Force Base. From 1990 to 1992, he was responsible for the overall shuttle program at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. From 1992 to 1995, during his tenure as director of KSC, Crippen presided over the launch and recovery of twenty-two space shuttle missions, establishing and developing new quality management techniques while ensuring the highest safety standards in an extremely hazardous environment.

Crippen left NASA in 1995 and joined the Lockheed Martin Information Systems Company as their vice president of automation systems. The following year he became their vice president of simulation and training systems. In October of that year he was named to the newly created position of president of the Thiokol Aerospace Group.

Crippen's accomplishments have earned him many awards. Among them are the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Award, the American Astronautical Society of Flight Achievement Award, and four NASA Space Flight Medals.

see also History of Humans in Space (volume 3); Skylab (volume 3); Space Shuttle (volume 3).

Vickie Elaine Caffey


"Astronaut Bio: Robert L. Crippen (Captain, USN)." NASA. <>.

"Robert Hutchings Goddard." National Inventors Hall of Fame. <>.