James D. Halsell bigraphy, stories - Astronauts

James D. Halsell : biography

29 September 1956 -

James Donald Halsell, Jr. (born 29 September 1956) is a retired United States Air Force officer and a former NASA astronaut. He is a veteran of five Space Shuttle missions. He has been quoted as saying he loves floating in zero gravity and watching the earth from space. "It's amazing to hold a handful of Skittles and watch them float away from you," Halsell has said.


Halsell was born and raised in West Monroe, Louisiana and attended the United States Air Force Academy. After training as a test pilot, he worked on F-4, F-16 and SR-71 aircraft. Halsell was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1990 and was trained as a Space Shuttle pilot. He piloted missions STS-65 (1994) and STS-74 (1995), and commanded missions STS-83, STS-94 (1997) and STS-101 (2000).

Halsell was Space Shuttle Program manager for launch integration at the Kennedy Space Center from 2000–2002, responsible for giving the "go for launch" on 13 Shuttle missions. After the Columbia accident, he led the NASA Return to Flight Planning Team, responsible for converting the recommendations of the accident investigation board into Shuttle Program actions that resulted in resumption of missions in 2005.

Halsell earned a masters degree in Space Operations from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1985.

He retired from NASA in November 2006 to accept a position with ATK Launch Systems. Halsell is Vice President, Space Exploration Systems, and the ATK site manager at Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL.

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