Michael P. Anderson

Michael P. Anderson bigraphy, stories - Astronaut, Scientist

Michael P. Anderson : biography

December 25, 1959 – February 1, 2003

Michael Phillip Anderson (December 25, 1959 – February 1, 2003) was a United States Air Force officer and NASA astronaut, who was killed in the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster when the craft disintegrated after reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.

Anderson was born in Plattsburgh, New York, into an Air Force family and grew up as a military brat. He attended high school in Cheney, Washington, while his father was stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base, west of Spokane.


Anderson graduated from the University of Washington in 1981 and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force. After completing a year of technical training at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, he was assigned to Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. At Randolph he served as Chief of Communication Maintenance for the 2015th Communication Squadron and later as Director of Information System Maintenance for the 1920th Information System Group.

In 1986 he was selected to attend Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma. Upon graduation he was assigned to the 2d Airborne Command and Control Squadron, Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska as an EC-135 pilot, flying the Strategic Air Command’s airborne command post code-named "Looking Glass." While stationed at Offutt, he completed his master’s degree in physics at Creighton University in 1990.

From January 1991 to September 1992 he served as an aircraft commander and instructor pilot in the 920th Air Refueling Squadron, Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan.

From September 1992 to February 1995 he was assigned as an instructor pilot and tactics officer in the 380th Air Refueling Wing, Plattsburgh Air Force Base, New York.

Anderson logged over 3,000 hours of flight in various models of the KC-135 and the T-38A aircraft.


Prior to the final launch of the Columbia, Anderson stated: "There’s always that unknown."


  • 1977: Graduated from Cheney High School in Cheney, Washington.
  • 1981: Bachelor of science degree in physics/astronomy from the University of Washington in Seattle.
  • 1990: Master of science degree in physics from Creighton University in Omaha.

Special honors

  • Distinguished graduate of USAF Communication Electronics Officers course
  • Recipient of the Armed Forces Communication Electronics Association (AFCEA) Academic Excellence Award, 1983
  • Received the USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training Academic Achievement Award for Class 87-08 (Vance AFB)


Anderson left behind a wife and two daughters, ages 9 and 11. He was also survived by his parents and three sisters.

NASA experience

Selected by NASA in December 1994, Anderson reported to the Johnson Space Center in March 1995. He completed a year of training and evaluation, and was qualified for flight crew assignment as a mission specialist. Anderson was initially assigned technical duties in the Flight Support Branch of the Astronaut Office. Anderson flew on missions STS-89 and STS-107, logging over 593 hours in space.

Space flight experience

STS-89 Space Shuttle Endeavour (January 22–31, 1998), was the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission during which the crew transferred more than 9,000 pounds of scientific equipment, logistical hardware and water from the Space Shuttle to Mir. In the fifth and last exchange of a U.S. astronaut, STS-89 delivered Andy Thomas to Mir and returned with David Wolf. Mission duration was 8 days, 19 hours and 47 seconds, traveling 3.6 million miles in 138 orbits of the Earth.

STS-107 Columbia (January 16 to February 1, 2003). The 16-day flight was a dedicated science and research mission. Working 24 hours a day, in two alternating shifts, the crew successfully conducted approximately 80 experiments. The STS-107 mission ended on February 1, 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia reentered the atmosphere. When heading down towards the surface of the earth with fans supporters and citizens watching from below, the spaceship imploded apart. The citizens only could watch in horror at seeing the Columbia break apart. When seeing the explosion, police officers and Marine Corps instantly prepared to clean up the debris field scattered along Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. Anderson perished instantly during the break-up and his body was discovered in a farm-field in a country-side of Texas. His position when dying was over Dallas Texas and he was found 200 miles off the range of Dallas.