NASA Astronauts

Michael L. Coats

Class of 1968
Captain, USN, Ret.
NASA Astronaut
Director, Johnson Space Center


Michael L. Coats-NASA Photo

Commander Michael L. Coats, smiling, looks up from his work at the commander’s station on Discovery's Orbiter Vehicle (OV) 103's, forward flight deck. While in the commander’s seat, Coats updates the STS-29 crew activity plan (CAP). Appearing around him are seat back with parachute harness, forward control panels with empty beverage container velcroed to panel F6, checklist clipped to panel O1, and portable laptop computer setup on top of panel F7.

PERSONAL DATA: Born January 16, 1946, in Sacramento, California, but considers Riverside, California, as his hometown. He is married to the former Diane Eileen Carson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They have two grown children, a daughter and a son, and two adorable, identical twin granddaughters.

EDUCATION: Graduated from Ramona High School, Riverside, California, in 1964; received a bachelor of science degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1968, a master of science in Administration of Science and Technology from George Washington University in 1977, and master of science in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1979.

ORGANIZATIONS: Member, Society of Experimental Test Pilots; Association of Space Explorers.

SPECIAL HONORS: Recipient of 2009 JSC Presidential Rank Award. Elected Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 2008. Inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2007. Awarded the FAI Gold Space Medal in 2006. Recipient of the Defense Superior Service Medal, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 32 Strike Flight Air Medals, 3 Individual Action Air Medals, 9 Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V, 3 NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and the NASA Medal For Outstanding Leadership.

EXPERIENCE: Coats graduated from Annapolis in 1968 and was designated a Naval Aviator in September 1969. After training as an A-7E pilot, he was assigned to Attack Squadron 192 (VA-192) from August 1970 to September 1972 aboard the USS KITTYHAWK and, during this time, flew 315 combat missions in Southeast Asia. He served as a flight instructor with the A-7E Readiness Training Squadron (VA-122) at Naval Air Station, Lemoore, California, from September 1972 to December 1973 and was then selected to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Maryland. Following test pilot training in 1974, he was project officer and test pilot for the A-7 and A-4 aircraft at the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate. He served as a flight instructor at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School from April 1976 until May 1977. He then attended the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School at Monterey, California, from June 1977 until his selection for the astronaut candidate program.

He has logged over 5,000 hours flying time in 28 different types of aircraft, and over 400 carrier landings.

NASA EXPERIENCE: Selected as an astronaut candidate in January 1978, Coats became a NASA Astronaut in August 1979. He was a member of the STS-4 astronaut support crew, and was a capsule communicator for STS-4 and STS-5. From May 1989 to March 1990, he served as Acting Chief of the Astronaut Office. He was the pilot on STS 41-D (Aug. 30 to Sep. 5, 1984). In February 1985, he was selected as spacecraft commander on STS 61-H, which was canceled after the Challenger accident. He was the spacecraft commander on STS-29 (March 13-18, 1989) and STS-39 (Apr. 28 to May 6, 1991). A veteran of three space flights, Coats has logged over 463 hours in space.

Coats retired from the U.S. Navy and the Astronaut Office in August, 1991 and joined the corporate arena. From 1991-1996 he was Vice President of Avionics and Communications Operations for Loral Space Information Systems. From 1996-1998 he was Vice President of Civil Space Programs for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space in Sunnyvale, California. From 1998-2005 he was Vice President of Advanced Space Transportation for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company in Denver, Colorado. Mike Coats returned to NASA in November 2005 to serve as Director, Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas.

SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE: STS 41-D launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on August 30, 1984. This was the maiden flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery. During this six day mission the crew successfully activated the OAST-1 solar cell wing experiment, deployed three satellites (SBS-D, SYNCOM IV-2, and TELSTAR 3C), operated the CFES-III experiment, the student crystal growth experiment, and photography experiments using the IMAX motion picture camera. The crew earned the name "Icebusters" for successfully removing hazardous ice particles from the Orbiter using the Remote Manipulator System. STS 41-D completed 96 orbits of the earth before landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on September 5, 1984.

STS-29 Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on March 13, 1989. During this highly successful five day mission, the crew deployed a Tracking and Data Relay Satellite, and performed numerous secondary experiments, including a Space Station "heat pipe" radiator experiment, two student experiments, a protein crystal growth experiment, and a chromosome and plant cell division experiment. In addition, the crew took over 3,000 photographs of the earth using several types of cameras, including the IMAX 70 mm movie camera. Mission duration was 80 orbits and concluded with a landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on March 18, 1989.

STS-39, an unclassified eight-day Department of Defense mission, launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on April 28, 1991. The seven man crew worked around-the-clock in two-shift operations during which they deployed, operated and retrieved the SPAS-II spacecraft, in addition to conducting various science experiments including research of both natural and induced phenomena in the Earth's atmosphere. After completing the 134 orbits of the Earth, Discovery and her crew landed at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on May 6, 1991.


Astronaut Photos and Biographies - Courtesy of NASA
Lucky Bag Photos- Courtesy of USNA Archives

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