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Robert Lawrence Jr.: The First African American Astronaut

Air Force Major Robert Lawrence Jr., who was never a NASA astronaut, and never made a flight into space, was our nation's first African American astronaut.

Space Shuttle First Flights: Challenger (“Nature Cannot Be Fooled”)

Richard Feynman's question about Space Shuttle Challenger was, "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?"

Space Shuttle First Flights: Challenger (January 28,1986)

On the eve of the Space Shuttle Challenger launch the Morton Thiokol engineering team protested the decision to launch. They were overridden by NASA

Space Shuttle First Flights: Mike Mullane (Don’t Eat Yellow Snow)

Space Shuttle Discovery's flight in 1984 dumped an unexpected "payload" in orbit.

Space Shuttle First Flights: Launch Of Discovery (STS-41D): August 1984

After Space Shuttle Discovery recovered from a dangerous launch abort in June 1984, the second try was flawless and spectacular.

Space Shuttle First Flights: Discovery Launch Abort (June 1984)

The maiden voyage of Space Shuttle Discovery was scheduled for June 25, 1984. The first-ever main engine shutdown launch abort scared the crap out of us.

Space Shuttle First Flights: Judy Resnik (“Best Wishes”)

Mike Mullane offered me a personal memento from Judy from their first Space Shuttle flight. I still have it.

Space Shuttle First Flights: Judy Resnik (First Encounters)

Shuttle astronaut Judy Resnik was a pilot, a classical pianist, and had a PhD in Electrical Engineering. And she was a terrific emissary for NASA, as I found out when I invited her to speak to the IBM Shuttle Software team.

Space Shuttle First Flights: Mike Mullane (“No Place for Civilians”)

Astronaut Mike Mullane knew Shuttle was an experimental spaceship sitting atop highly volatile explosives. When NASA allowed civilians to ride they were implying it was safe when it was not. Unfortunately, he was right.

Space Shuttle First Flights: STS-1 (Columbia) The First Orbital Flight

Our Shuttle flight software team had the “distinction” of hearing Walter Cronkite describe, live and on national television, whether we’d done our work correctly.

Space Shuttle First Flights: Dick Truly – The Approach and Landing...

I had visions of the Space Shuttle Enterprise getting jostled during separation and colliding with the 747’s vertical stabilizer – which would definitely make for a bad day all around.

Space Shuttle First Flights: Bob Crippen and Dick Truly – Working...

Hearing about the near-legendary competence of NASA astronauts was one thing, seeing it in action was humbling. Bob Crippen and Dick Truly, the two I got to work with on Space Shuttle, were the most impressive professionals I’ve met.