Kathryn D. Sullivan


Kathryn D. Sullivan
Kathryn Sullivan, PCAST Member (cropped).jpg
Born (1951-10-03) October 3, 1951 (age 70)
Nationality United States
OccupationGeologist & NOAA scientist
Space career
NASA Astronaut
Current occupation
Charles A. Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution
RankUS Navy O6 infobox.svg Captain, USN
Time in space
22 days 04 hours 49 minutes
Selection1978 NASA Group
Total EVAs
Total EVA time
3 hours 29 minutes
MissionsSTS-41-G, STS-31, STS-45
Mission insignia
STS-41-G patch.pngSts31 flight insignia.pngSts-45-patch.png
Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere
10th Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
In office
March 6, 2014 – January 20, 2017
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJane Lubchenco
Succeeded byRick Spinrad
In office
Acting: March 1, 2013 – March 6, 2014
Alma mater
AwardsNASA Outstanding Leadership Ribbon.png USA - NASA Excep Rib.png SpaceFltRib.gif
Scientific career
FieldsGeology, Oceanography
ThesisThe structure and evolution of the Newfoundland Basin, offshore eastern Canada (1978)
Doctoral advisorMichael John Keen

Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan (born October 3, 1951) is an American geologist and a former NASA astronaut. A crew member on three Space Shuttle missions, she was the first American woman to walk in space on October 11, 1984. On June 7, 2020, she became the first woman to dive to the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth's oceans.[1] She was Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate on March 6, 2014. Sullivan's tenure ended on January 20, 2017, with the swearing in of President Donald Trump. Following completion of her service at NOAA, she was designated as the 2017 Charles A. Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum,[2] and has also served as a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.[3]


Sullivan was born in Paterson, New Jersey. She is a 1969 graduate of William Howard Taft High School in the Woodland Hills district of Los Angeles, California. She was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 1973, and a Ph.D. in Geology from Dalhousie University in 1978.[4][5] While at Dalhousie, she participated in several oceanographic expeditions that studied the floors of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.[6]


Sullivan in her astronaut uniform

Military career

In 1988, Sullivan joined the U.S. Naval Reserve as an oceanography officer, retiring with the rank of captain in 2006. She was stationed in Guam.[citation needed]

NASA career

A video of Sullivan in 1981 talking about how she felt to be selected

Sullivan joined NASA in 1978 and was part of the first astronaut groups to include women.[7] She performed the first extra-vehicular activity (EVA) by an American woman during Space Shuttle Challenger mission STS-41-G on October 11, 1984. Sullivan and mission specialist David Leestma performed a 3.5-hour spacewalk in which they operated a system designed to show that a satellite could be refueled in orbit.[6] During their eight-day mission, the crew deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conducted scientific observations of the Earth with the OSTA-3 pallet (including the SIR-B radar, FILE, and MAPS experiments) and large format camera (LFC), conducted a satellite refueling demonstration using hydrazine fuel with the Orbital Refueling System (ORS), and conducted numerous in-cabin experiments as well as activating eight "Getaway Special" canisters. STS-41G completed 132 orbits of the Earth in 197.5 hours, before landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on October 13, 1984.[citation needed]

In April 1990, Sullivan served on the crew of STS-31, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on April 24, 1990. During this five-day mission, crew members aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope, and conducted a variety of middeck experiments involving the study of protein crystal growth, polymer membrane processing, and the effects of weightlessness and magnetic fields on an ion arc.[8] They also operated a variety of cameras, including the IMAX cargo bay camera, for Earth observations from their record setting altitude of 380 miles. Following 76 orbits of the Earth in 121 hours, STS-31 Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on April 29, 1990.[8] In 1985, she became an Adjunct Professor of Geology at Rice University.[8]

Sullivan served as Payload Commander on STS-45, the first Spacelab mission dedicated to NASA's Mission to Planet Earth. During this nine-day mission, the crew operated the twelve experiments that constituted the ATLAS-I (Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science) cargo.[8]

Sullivan left NASA in 1993.[6] She flew on three Space Shuttle missions and logged 532 hours in space.[9]

Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan checks SIR-B antenna during STS-41-G
Astronaut Kathryn Sullivan using binoculars to view the Earth during STS-41-G

Civilian career

After leaving NASA, Sullivan served as chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 1996 she was named president and CEO of the COSI Columbus, an interactive science center in Columbus, Ohio. From 2006 to 2011 she was Director for Ohio State University's Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy as well as a volunteer science advisor to COSI. Under her leadership, COSI strengthened its impact on science teaching in the classroom and its national reputation as an innovator of hands-on, inquiry-based science learning resources.[10] She was appointed to the National Science Board by President George W. Bush in 2004.[citation needed]

In 2009, Sullivan was elected to a three-year term as the chair of the Section on General Interest in Science and Engineering for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[citation needed]

In January 2011, the White House sent to the Senate the nomination of Sullivan by President Barack Obama to be an assistant secretary of commerce. Sullivan was first nominated in December 2010, but because the Senate did not approve her nomination and a bevy of others forwarded late in December, the White House renewed the formal requests.[citation needed]

On May 4, 2011, Sullivan was confirmed by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate and appointed by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Deputy Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.[11]

Sullivan became Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator on February 28, 2013, following the resignation of Jane Lubchenco.[12]

President Obama nominated Sullivan to serve as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator on August 1, 2013 and she was confirmed by the Senate on March 6, 2014.[13][12]

Sullivan was named the 2017 Charles A. Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History, a competitive 12-month fellowship at the National Air and Space Museum. During her residence in the museum, Sullivan's research focused on the Hubble Space Telescope.[2]

In November 2019, Sullivan's book Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention was released from MIT Press. ‘’Handprints on Hubble’’ recounts Sullivan’s experience as part of the team that launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained the Hubble Space Telescope. She discussed the book and her participation in the Hubble telescope's development and launch on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour[14] and at the Royal Institution in London in March 2020.[15]

In spring 2020, Sullivan traveled on an expedition aboard the Triton Submarines DSV Limiting Factor to the bottom of the Challenger Deep, the deepest known point in the ocean, becoming the first woman to reach the deepest known point in the ocean[16] and the first person to travel to both Challenger Deep and to space.[17]

In November 2020, Sullivan was named a volunteer member of the Joe Biden presidential transition Agency Review Team to support transition efforts related to the Department of Commerce.[18]

Awards and other recognition

Sullivan at 2019 BookExpo America signing autographs for Handprints on Hubble

In 1991, Sullivan received the Haley Space Flight Award.[19]

In 1993, she received the Gold Medal of the Society of Woman Geographers.[20][21]

In 1994, she received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[22] In 2004, Sullivan was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame and received the Adler Planetarium Women in Space Science Award.

In 2013, Sullivan was awarded an honorary doctorate of Science from Willamette University in conjunction with her presentation of a commencement address.[23]

In 2014, she was honored in the Time 100 list. According to John Glenn, "Kathy is not just an ivory-tower scientist. She was part of NASA's first class of female astronauts, selected in 1978, and went on to fly three shuttle missions. She is the first American woman to walk in space and served aboard the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. That role in helping humanity look outward has not prevented her from looking homeward. The planet is suffering increasingly severe upheavals, at least partly a result of climate change – droughts, floods, typhoons, tornadoes. I believe my good friend Kathy is the right person for the right job at the right time."[24]

In May 2015, Sullivan was awarded an honorary doctorate from Brown University for her "abundant contributions to science, education and the public good, and her ongoing commitment to improving the state of our planet for future generations."[25]

In September 2015, Sullivan presented the John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History Series at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Titled "Looking at Earth: An Astronaut's Journey," Sullivan discussed her life of exploration and discovery, what it's like to fulfill her childhood dreams, and how NOAA's study of our planet helps us understand today's environmental challenges.[26]

She was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2017 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017. In 2020, the American Association of Geographers named her Honorary Geographer. [27]

Sullivan was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on November 23, 2020.[28]

See also


  1. ^ McGreevy, Nora. "Astronaut Kathy Sullivan Becomes First Woman to Reach Deepest Part of the Ocean". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved July 21, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Former Astronaut and NOAA Administrator Kathy D. Sullivan Named National Air and Space Museum's Lindbergh Fellow". si.edu. January 26, 2017.
  3. ^ "Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Senior Fellow". www.potomacinstitute.org.
  4. ^ "KATHRYN D. SULLIVAN (PH.D.), NASA ASTRONAUT (FORMER)" (PDF). nasa.gov. April 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  5. ^ Sullivan, Kathryn Dwyer (1978). The structure and evolution of the Newfoundland Basin, offshore eastern Canada (Ph.D.). Dalhousie University. OCLC 757288717 – via ProQuest.
  6. ^ a b c "Kathryn Sullivan". Encyclopædia Britannica.
  7. ^ Murphy, Heather (June 8, 2020). "First American Woman to Walk in Space Reaches Deepest Spot in the Ocean". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d "Sullivan". astronautix.com. Archived from the original on February 14, 2009.
  9. ^ "Astronaut Bio: Kathryn D. Sullivan". nasa.gov. February 11, 2015.
  10. ^ "NASA Biographical Data". Retrieved May 22, 2015.
  11. ^ "National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration". Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  12. ^ a b "Former Astronaut Picked to Lead NOAA". Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  13. ^ "National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration". Retrieved May 10, 2014.
  14. ^ Presenter: Jane Garvey; Producer: Anna Lacey; Guest: Kathryn Sullivan (March 3, 2020). "Hubble astronaut Kathryn Sullivan; Romy Gill cooks spicy chickpeas; Reducing domestic violence". Woman's Hour. 0:40 minutes in. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  15. ^ "Handprints on Hubble". Royal Institution. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  16. ^ Murphy, Heather (June 8, 2020). "First American Woman to Walk in Space Reaches Deepest Spot in the Ocean". New York Times. Archived from the original on June 9, 2020. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  17. ^ Cooper, Kelly-Leigh (June 14, 2020). "The woman making history in sea and space". BBC News. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  18. ^ "Agency Review Teams". President-Elect Joe Biden. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  19. ^ "American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics". Archived from the original on February 21, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  20. ^ "SWG Gold Medalists". Society of Woman Geographers. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  21. ^ "Pennant, Society of Woman Geographers, STS 41-G, Sullivan". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  22. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  23. ^ "2013 Honorary Degrees". willamette.edu. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  24. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People". Retrieved May 21, 2015.
  25. ^ "Brown awards six honorary doctorates – News from Brown". brown.edu.
  26. ^ "Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History Series". July 30, 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  27. ^ "Honorary Geographer | AAG". www.aag.org. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  28. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2020: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. November 23, 2020. Retrieved November 23, 2020.

External links

  • Appearances on C-SPAN
  • NASA Biography
Government offices
Preceded by
Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Succeeded by
Benjamin Friedman (acting)[1]
Timothy Gallaudet
  1. ^ Smith, Marcia. "BENJAMIN FRIEDMAN TO BE ACTING NOAA ADMINISTRATOR". Space Policy Online. Retrieved November 2, 2018.