Joseph P. Allen bigraphy, stories - Astronaut, Physicist

Joseph P. Allen : biography

June 27, 1937 -

Joseph Percival Allen, Ph.D. (born June 27, 1937) is a former NASA astronaut. He logged more than 3,000 hours flying time in jet aircraft.

Allen is married to the former Bonnie Jo Darling of Elkhart, Indiana. Their children are David Christopher, born September 1968 and Elizabeth Darling, born May 1972.

Space experience

Allen served as mission specialist on STS-5, the first fully operational flight of the Shuttle Transportation System, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on November 11, 1982. He was accompanied by Vance D. Brand (spacecraft commander), Col. Robert F. Overmyer (pilot), and Dr. William B. Lenoir (mission specialist). STS-5, the first mission with four crewmembers, clearly demonstrated the Space Shuttle as fully operational by the successful first deployment of two commercial communications satellites from the Orbiter's payload bay. The mission marked the first use of the Payload Assist Module (PAM-D), and its new ejection system. Numerous flight tests were performed throughout the mission to document Shuttle performance during launch, boost, orbit, atmospheric entry and landing phases. STS-5 was the last flight to carry the Development Flight Instrumentation (DFI) package to support flight testing. A Getaway Special, three Student Involvement Projects, and medical experiments were included on the mission. A planned spacewalk by Allen and Lenoir, the first of the Space Shuttle program, was postponed by one day after Lenoir became ill, and then had to be cancelled when the two spacesuits that were to be used developed problems. The STS-5 crew successfully concluded the 5-day orbital flight of Space Shuttle Columbia with the first entry and landing through a cloud deck to a hard-surface runway and demonstrated maximum braking. STS-5 completed 81 orbits of the Earth in 122 hours before landing on a concrete runway at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on November 16, 1982.

Allen was a mission specialist on STS 51-A, which launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on November 8, 1984. He was accompanied by Captain Frederick (Rick) Hauck (spacecraft commander), Captain David M. Walker (pilot), and fellow mission specialists, Dr. Anna L. Fisher and Commander Dale Gardner. This was the second flight of the Orbiter Discovery. During the mission the crew deployed two satellites, Canada's Anik D-2 (Telesat H) and Hughes' LEASAT-1 (Syncom IV-1), and operated the 3M Company's Diffusive Mixing of Organic Solutions experiment. In the first space salvage attempt in history, Allen and Gardner performed spacewalks and successfully retrieved for return to Earth the Palapa B-2 and Westar VI communications satellites. STS 51-A completed 127 orbits of the Earth in 192 hours before landing at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on November 16, 1984. With the completion of this flight Allen logged a total of 314 hours in space.

Post-NASA experience

Allen served as chief executive officer of Space Industries International, Washington, D.C., and later was chairman of Veridian, until he retired in 2004. General Dynamics announced its acquisition of Veridian on June 9, 2003.

In the 1998 miniseries From the Earth to the Moon Allen was played by Doug McKeon.


  • (November 1989)

Special honors

  • Fulbright Scholarship (1959–1960)
  • Outstanding Flying Award, Class 69-06, Vance Air Force Base (1969)
  • Two NASA Group Achievement Awards (1971 and 1974) in recognition of contributions to the Apollo 15 Lunar Traverse Planning Team and for subsequent work on the Outlook for Space Study Team
  • Yale Science and Engineering Association Award for Advancement of Basic and Applied Science (1972)
  • DePauw University Distinguished Alumnus Award (1972)
  • NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal (1973)
  • NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1978)
  • NASA Superior Performance Award (1975 and 1981)
  • Honorary doctor of science from DePauw University (1983)
  • Komarov Diploma from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
  • US Astronaut Hall of Fame (2005)
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