The Chief of the Astronaut Office is the most senior leadership position for active astronauts at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The Chief Astronaut serves as head of the NASA Astronaut Corps and is the principal advisor to the NASA Administrator on astronaut training and operations.
When Deke Slayton was grounded from the Mercury Seven due to a heart condition, he took on the position of Coordinator of Astronaut Activities and informally held the title of "chief astronaut". In this role, he held responsibility for the operation of the astronaut office.
The position of Chief of the Astronaut Office was officially created in November 1963, when Alan Shepard was named as the first Chief Astronaut. His responsibilities included monitoring the coordination, scheduling, and control of all activities involving NASA astronauts. This included monitoring the development and implementation of effective training programs to assure the flight readiness of available pilot and non-pilot personnel for assignment to crew positions on manned space flights; furnishing pilot evaluations applicable to the design, construction, and operations of spacecraft systems and related equipment; and providing qualitative scientific and engineering observations to facilitate overall mission planning, formulation of feasible operational procedures, and selection and conduct of specific experiments for each flight.
Since the Shuttle era, the Chief of the Astronaut Office often returns to active duty in the Office once their term is complete. The Chief is currently responsible for managing Astronaut Office resources and operations, and helps develop astronaut flight crew operation concepts and crew assignments for future spaceflight missions.
List of Chief Astronauts
|1||Deke Slayton||September 1, 1962||November 1963||unofficial|
|2||Alan Shepard||November 1963||July 1969|
|3||Tom Stafford||July 1969||June 1971||Stafford held the position while Shepard prepared for and flew Apollo 14.|
|4||Alan Shepard||June 1971||August 1, 1974|
|5||John Young||January 14, 1974||April 15, 1987||Paul J. Weitz||Acting Chief during STS-1 training was Alan Bean.|
|6||Dan Brandenstein||April 27, 1987||October 1992||Steven Hawley||Hawley was Acting Chief while Brandenstein prepared for and flew STS-49, the first flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour.|
|7||Robert Gibson||December 8, 1992||September 6, 1994||Linda Godwin||Gibson handed the position over to Cabana to begin training for STS-71, the first Shuttle docking to Mir.|
|8||Robert Cabana||September 6, 1994||October 1997||Linda Godwin||Cabana handed the position over to Cockrell to begin training for STS-88, the first International Space Station assembly mission.|
|9||Kenneth Cockrell||October 1997||October 1998||Cockrell later flew two Shuttle missions.|
|10||Charles Precourt||October 1998||November 2002||Kent Rominger and Steve Smith|
|11||Kent Rominger||November 2002||September 2006||Andy Thomas and Peggy Whitson|
|12||Steven W. Lindsey||September 2006||October 2009||Janet Kavandi and Sunita Williams (February 2008 to October 2009).||Lindsey resigned when he was assigned to command STS-133, which at the time was planned to be the final Space Shuttle mission.|
|13||Peggy Whitson||October 2009||July 2012||Rick Sturckow (October 2009 to August 2011); Michael Barratt, MD, and then subsequently Robert Behnken and Eric Boe||Whitson was the first woman and first non-pilot to serve as Chief Astronaut. She resigned when she went back on active flight status.|
|14||Robert Behnken||July 2012||July 2015||Eric Boe||Behnken and Boe both returned to flight status, working on the Commercial Crew vehicle.|
|15||Christopher Cassidy||July 2015||June 2017||Patrick Forrester||Cassidy returned to flight status to await a future mission.|
|16||Patrick Forrester||June 2017||present||Reid Wiseman, then Megan McArthur Behnken|
- "Astronaut Bio: Deke Slayton 6/93". Jsc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- "Astronaut Bio: Alan B. Shepard, Jr. 7/98". Jsc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- "NASA Names Astronaut Patrick Forrester New Chief of Astronaut Office". Jsc.nasa.gov. Retrieved 2017-06-02.
- "Alan Bean, Astronaut Speakers". Barberusa.com. Archived from the original on 2014-01-02. Retrieved 2014-07-13.
- "NASA - NASA Astronaut Mark Kelly Resumes Training For STS-134 Mission". Nasa.gov. 2011-02-04. Retrieved 2014-07-13.