Bonnie Dunbar Biography

Bonnie Dunbar

Bonnie J. Dunbar

National Space Society Board of Directors

Although best known as a NASA astronaut, my aerospace career spans industry, government, non-profits, and academia. I am currently a Professor in Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University (TAMU). My undergraduate career began at the University of Washington majoring in Ceramic Engineering, working on Space Shuttle Thermal Protection Systems (TPS). Following BS and MS degrees, I joined Rockwell International supporting Space Shuttle Columbia. At Rockwell, I received the Engineer of the Year Award for tile production processes problem solutions and served on Krafft Ehricke’s committee studying future space commercialization concepts.

I later joined NASA as a Flight Controller for Skylab Re-entry and Space Shuttle Payloads, then was selected as Mission Specialist Astronaut in 1980. Simultaneously I received my doctorate from the University of Houston, for research related to effects of microgravity on skeletal bone fracture toughness.

My five Space Shuttle flights included the 1st and 8th missions to dock to the Russian Space Station, MIR; I was the first US female astronaut to be certified as a Cosmonaut; and was the first woman designated as Payload Commander.  I served two tours at NASA headquarters: for the Challenger Accident Investigation and as Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Office of Life, Microgravity and Science Applications leading evaluations of Space Station concepts.  At JSC I managed the parabolic flight program for university students and integrated Space Settlement Design Competitions into NASA JSC. I was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame.  

As CEO of the Museum of Flight in Seattle, I expanded space exhibits and K-12 STEM education, including founding the Washington State Aerospace Scholars program.  I later joined the University of Houston as a Mechanical Engineering Professor and Director of the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture.  At TAMU, I established the Aerospace Human Systems Laboratory.

As President of the Association of Space Explorers (ASE), I led development of policies for Space Traffic Control and capture of international retired astronaut physiological data.  I have been elected to the National Academy of Engineering (NAE); as Fellows of the AIAA, the American Ceramic Society, and the Royal Aeronautical Society; and was recently awarded the national McGovern Medal for Science and Society.

An internationally invited lecturer, I have the opportunity to speak about a variety of space topics to a wide range of audiences. Recently, this included the NSS ISDC. I look forward to the possibility of serving and promoting NSS in the future.