Donald (Deke) K. Slayton

Receiving his wings in April 1943 (one year after entering the Air Force), Donald (Deke) Slayton flew 56 combat missions in Europe as a B-25 pilot with the 340th Bombardment Group. He later flew seven more over Japan in A-26s. After the war, this Wisconsin native left the Air Force briefly to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering at the University of Minnesota, and to work for Boeing Aircraft Corporation in Seattle. Recalled to active duty in 1951, Slayton served as a flight test office, technical inspector, fighter pilot and experimental test pilot until April 1959. As an Air Force pilot, he logged more than 8,000 hours flying time, including 5,000 hours in jet aircraft.

In April 1959, Deke Slayton was named as one of NASA's original seven Mercury astronauts. In September 1962, he was named the first chief of the Astronaut Office, and soon after, Director of Flight Crew Operations. During the historic Apollo/Soyuz Test Project in July 1975, he served as the Apollo docking module pilot ,participation in a successful meeting in space between U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts. On that mission he logged nearly 2,188 hours of space flight.

As Manager of the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Test from December 1975 through November 1977, he helped NASA verify the capability to ferry the shuttle aboard a 747 jet used as a launch vehicle. Slayton then served as Manager for orbital flight test until his NASA retirement in March 1982. In November of that year, he was elected President of Space Service, and managed the design, development and marketing of the Conestoga family of suborbital launch vehicles. He then managed the first U.S. commercial launch on March 15, 1989 Starfire I, Consort 1.

In addition to his pivotal role with Space Services, Slayton also is Chairman of Space America Incorporated; President of International Formula One Pylon Air Racing; a member of the U.S. Department of Transportation Commercial Space Advisory Committee; and Vice President of the Mercury Seven Foundation.