Kathryn D. Sullivan

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Kathryn D. Sullivan
1978 NASA Group
Sts31 flight insignia.png
In office
March 1, 2013 – January 20, 2017
Acting: March 1, 2013 – March 6, 2014
PresidentBarack Obama
Preceded byJane Lubchenco
Succeeded byBenjamin Friedman (acting)
Personal details
  • NOAA
ThesisThe Structure and Evolution of the Newfoundland Basin, Offshore Eastern Canada (1978)
Doctoral advisorMichael John Keen

Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan (born October 3, 1951) is an American

US Navy officer. She was a crew member on three Space Shuttle

A graduate of

Mission to Planet Earth

Sullivan was

US Senate on March 6, 2014. Her tenure ended on January 20, 2017, after which she was designated as the 2017 Charles A. Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum, and also served as a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. On June 7, 2020, Sullivan became the first woman to dive into the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the Earth's oceans. In September 2021, President Joe Biden appointed her to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology

Early life and education

Kathryn Dwyer Sullivan was born in

girl scout.[4][6]

Sullivan graduated from

Earth Sciences from UCSC in 1973, and a Doctor of Philosophy in geology from Dalhousie University and the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Nova Scotia, Canada, in 1978,[1][7] writing her doctoral thesis on The structure and evolution of the Newfoundland Basin under the supervision of Michael John Keen.[8] While at Dalhousie, she participated in several oceanographic expeditions that studied the floors of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.[9]

NASA career

Selection and training

When Sullivan visited her family for Christmas in 1976, her brother Grant, an aerospace engineer and corporate jet pilot, told her that the

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had issued a call for applications for a new group of astronauts. NASA had made it known that it was interested in recruiting women, and Grant encouraged her to apply. He had applied for both pilot and mission specialist positions. After she returned to Nova Scotia she saw a NASA ad in a science journal, and decided to apply. She reasoned that the Space Shuttle was a kind of research vessel, but her dream was still to descend to the ocean floor in a submersible. That prospect came closer when she received an offer from William B. F. Ryan from the Lamont–Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University to join his team exploring the ocean in the submersible DSV Alvin. Ryan had been an unsuccessful finalist for NASA Astronaut Group 6 in 1967, and he counseled her to wait for NASA to call. They both felt that the odds on being accepted were long, but Sullivan did not join Ryan's team while she waited to hear about her selection.[10]

Grant's application was unsuccessful, but Kathryn was invited to come to the Johnson Space Center (JSC) for a week of interviews and physical examinations commencing on November 14, 1977. She was the only woman in this group of twenty-five finalists.[11] Over the course of a week she was given physical and psychological examinations, and was interviewed by a selection panel chaired by George Abbey. She was successful, and her selection as one of the six women among the 35 members of NASA Astronaut Group 8 was publicly announced on January 16, 1978.[12] It was the first astronaut group to include women. Sullivan was one of the three members of the group (the others being Sally Ride and Steve Hawley) for whom NASA astronaut would be their first full-time paid job since leaving university.[13]

On August 31, 1979, NASA announced that the 35

Ellington Air Force Base. She became the first woman to be certified to wear a United States Air Force pressure suit,[15] and on July 1, 1979, she set an unofficial sustained American aviation altitude record for women of 19,000 metres (63,000 ft) during a four-hour flight in a NASA WB-57F reconnaissance aircraft.[17]

For the first Space Shuttle mission,

Space Shuttle tiles to verify that none had been damaged. She was then assigned to the support crew at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), along with fellow astronauts Steve Hawley, Loren Shriver and Don Williams, for the next four Space Shuttle missions.[18]


In July 1983 Sullivan joined the Mission Development group, which organised and supervised the development of payloads for future missions that did not yet have a crew assigned to them. She was assigned the Office of Space and Terrestrial Applications' OSTA-3 satellite and the Orbital Refueling System (ORS). The objective of the latter was to demonstrate that the Space Shuttle could be used to refuel a satellite in orbit, thereby extending its useful life. For this the aging Landsat 4 satellite was chosen. In September 1983 she was officially assigned to this mission, which was designated STS-41-G.[19]

Sally Ride was also assigned to this mission, so it became the first time that two women were in space together. The mission lifted off from the KSC in the Space Shuttle

extra-vehicular activity (EVA) by an American woman on October 11, 1984. With fellow mission specialist David Leestma, she performed a 3.5-hour spacewalk in which they operated the ORS to show that a satellite could be refueled in orbit.[20] They installed a valve into a satellite propulsion system that mimicked that of Landsat 4 and transferred 59 kilograms (130 lb) of hydrazine to it using the ORS. This demonstrated that the procedure could be performed with a real satellite.[21]

During the eight-day mission, the crew also deployed the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite, conducted scientific observations of the Earth with the OSTA-3 pallet (including the SIR-B radar, FILE, and MAPS experiments) and large format camera (LFC), and conducted several in-cabin experiments as well as activating eight "

STS-41G completed 132 orbits of the Earth in 197.5 hours, before landing back at the KSC on October 13, 1984.[20]


In September 1985 Sullivan was assigned to the STS-61-J mission, which was scheduled to deploy the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) in August 1986.[22] The original intention was that the HST would be periodically retrieved by the Space Shuttle and returned to Earth for maintenance, although some components were designed for servicing in-orbit. In 1984 NASA management decided this would be too dangerous and too costly, and that the HST would instead be maintained in-orbit by periodic servicing missions for up to fifteen years.[23] Convinced that NASA would attempt to fix any component that jeopardized the HST's mission whether it had been designated as serviceable or not, Sullivan pressed for as many components as possible to be replaceable or amenable to in-orbit servicing. Working with fellow astronaut Bruce McCandless II and NASA and Lockheed Corporation engineers, she ensured that there would be a complete set of tools and procedures for as many HST maintenance missions as possible.[24]

The STS-61-J mission was cancelled after the January 1986

capsule communicator (CAPCOM) for STS-26, the Space Shuttle's October 1988 return-to-flight mission.[26] She chose the wakeup music, including a contribution from Robin Williams, who provided a pastiche of his Good Morning, Vietnam radio greeting. She continued working as CAPCOM on the STS-27 and STS-29 missions.[27]


At the end of March 1989, Sullivan returned to working on the HST mission, which was now designated

apogee of 617 kilometers (333 nmi) above the Earth was the highest yet achieved by a Space Shuttle orbiter. (It was later exceeded by the STS-82 HST servicing mission.)[29][30]

The HST was deployed on the second day using Discovery's Canadarm with the Shuttle doors opened towards the ground. In case McCandless and Sullivan had to perform an EVA, the Shuttle's cabin pressure was lowered from 101 kilopascals (14.7 psi) to 28 kilopascals (4.1 psi).[31] At one point McCandless and Sullivan donned their space suits and entered the airlock to perform an emergency EVA to help deploy the Hubble's solar arrays, but this was not required, as the engineers were able to deploy them with a series of commands from Earth.[32] Discovery followed the HST for the next two days in case intervention was required.[33] After making 76 orbits of the Earth in 121 hours, Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, on April 29, 1990.[29]


Sullivan served as

Oscar statuette for the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award that film maker George Lucas received on March 30, the presentation being made by the STS-45 crew from Earth orbit.[36] Sullivan had special responsibility for a dose-response experiment that involved firing an electron pulse into the upper atmosphere and recording the luminosity induced with a special camera.[37] Discovery landed at the Kennedy Space Center on April 2, 1992.[34]

Sullivan left NASA in 1993 having flown on three Space Shuttle missions and logged 532 hours in space.[1][38]

Military career

Sullivan in her Navy uniform for the STS-31
crew photo

Sullivan became an adjunct professor of geology at

Secretary of the Navy and would raise the matter. Later that year, Sullivan became a direct commission officer in the USNR with the rank of lieutenant commander.[26]

In October 1990 she assumed command of a small specialized unit of oceanographers and meteorologists. Based at

Operation Desert Storm, and stayed for thirty days to augment the regular component responsible for the Western Pacific to free it to concentrate on the Persian Gulf.[40] She retired from the USNR with the rank of captain in 2006.[41]

Civilian career

NOAA Chief Scientist

While she was still working on preparations for STS-45, Sullivan received a call from

US Senate for confirmation, and she arranged to be seconded from NASA to NOAA as acting chief scientist from August 17, 1992.[44]

Before she could be confirmed, President

Career 1996 to 2011

Sullivan was president and CEO of the

COSI Columbus, an interactive science center in Columbus, Ohio, from 1996 to 2006.[1] From 2006 to 2011 she was Director for Ohio State University's Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy while remaining a volunteer science advisor to COSI.[1] She was appointed as vice chair of the National Science Board by President George W. Bush in 2004.[46] In 2009 Sullivan was elected to a three-year term as the chair of the Section on General Interest in Science and Engineering for the American Association for the Advancement of Science.[47]

Assistant Secretary of Commerce

In January 2011 President Barack Obama sent the Senate his nomination of Sullivan to be an Assistant Secretary of Commerce. Sullivan was first nominated in December 2010, but because the Senate did not approve her nomination before the session ended, the White House renewed the nomination. On May 4, 2011, Sullivan was confirmed by unanimous consent of the Senate and appointed by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction and Deputy Administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.[48] Sullivan became Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Acting NOAA Administrator on February 28, 2013, following the resignation of Jane Lubchenco.[49] President Obama nominated Sullivan to serve as the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator on August 1, 2013, and she was confirmed by the Senate on March 6, 2014.[50][49] Her term ended on January 20, 2017.[51]

Positions since 2017

Sullivan was named the 2017 Charles A. Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History, a competitive twelve-month fellowship at the National Air and Space Museum. During her residence in the museum, Sullivan's research focused on the Hubble Space Telescope.[52] She has also served as a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies.[53] Her book Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention was released from MIT Press in November 2019. It recounted her experience as part of the team that launched, rescued, repaired, and maintained the Hubble Space Telescope.[54][55]

In June 2020 Sullivan traveled on an expedition aboard the

Department of Commerce,[60] and he appointed her to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in September 2021.[61]

Awards and recognition

Sullivan's awards from NASA included the NASA Space Flight Medal in 1984, 1990 and 1992; the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1988 and 1991, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal in 1992, and a Certificate of Appreciation in 1996.[62] She received the Haley Space Flight Award in 1991,[63] the Gold Medal of the Society of Woman Geographers in 1993,[64][65] the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 1994,[66] and the Adler Planetarium Women in Space Science Award in 2004.[67]

In 2014 Sullivan was named in the

tornadoes. I believe my good friend Kathy is the right person for the right job at the right time.[68]

Sullivan received honorary Doctor of Science degrees from Willamette University in 2013 in conjunction with her presentation of a commencement address,[69] and from Brown University in May 2015, for her "abundant contributions to science, education and the public good, and her ongoing commitment to improving the state of our planet for future generations".[47][70] In September 2015 she presented the John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History Series at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Titled "Looking at Earth: An Astronaut's Journey", Sullivan discussed her life of exploration and discovery, what it is like to fulfill her childhood dreams, and how NOAA's study of our planet helps us understand today's environmental challenges.[71]

Sullivan was inducted into the

Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2004,[72] elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 2016,[73] and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2017.[74] In 2020 the American Association of Geographers named her Honorary Geographer.[75] She was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on November 23, 2020.[76]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Kathryn D. Sullivan (Ph.D.), NASA Astronaut (Former)" (PDF). NASA. April 2014. Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  2. ^ "Barbara Kelly Married; Bride of Donald Paul Sullivan, Graduate Assistant at N. N. U." The New York Times. August 21, 1949. p. 63. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  3. ^ Sullivan 2019, p. 16.
  4. ^ a b c Sullivan, Kathryn D. (May 10, 2007). "Oral History" (Interview). Interviewed by Ross-Nazzal, Jennifer. Columbus, Ohio: NASA. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  5. ^ "Astronauts Sally Ride and Kathy Sullivan, who have spent ..." UPI Archives. October 12, 1984. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  6. ^ Sullivan 2019, p. 12.
  7. ^ a b Sullivan 2019, pp. 12–13.
  8. ProQuest 302930700
    . Retrieved February 13, 2022 – via ProQuest.
  9. ^ Shayler & Burgess 2020, p. 120.
  10. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 14–18.
  11. ^ Reim, Milton (November 11, 1977). "Tenth Group of 20 Astronaut Applicants Report to JSC on November 14" (PDF) (Press release). NASA. 77-75. Retrieved January 15, 2022.
  12. ^ Reim, Milton (January 16, 1978). "NASA Selects 35 Astronaut Candidates" (PDF) (Press release). NASA. 78-03. Retrieved September 17, 2020.
  13. ^ Sullivan 2019, p. 23.
  14. ^ Reim, Milton (August 31, 1979). "35 Astronaut Candidates Complete Training and Evaluation Period" (PDF) (Press release). NASA. 79-53. Retrieved October 3, 2020.
  15. ^ a b Sullivan 2019, pp. 30–34.
  16. ^ Shayler & Burgess 2020, pp. 196–198.
  17. ^ "Kathryn Sullivan Sets Altitude Record". NASA. July 1, 1979. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  18. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 39–48.
  19. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 53–56.
  20. ^ a b c "STS-41G". NASA. Retrieved February 14, 2022.
  21. ^ Jenkins 2016, p. 52.
  22. ^ Nesbitt, Steve (September 19, 1985). "NASA Names Crews for Upcoming Space Shuttle Flights" (PDF) (Press release). 85-035. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  23. ^ Gainor 2020, pp. 32–34.
  24. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 117–121.
  25. ^ Sullivan 2019, p. 139.
  26. ^ a b Sullivan 2019, pp. 153–155.
  27. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 170–173.
  28. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 168–169.
  29. ^ a b "STS-31". NASA. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  30. ^ Legler, Robert D.; Bennett, Floyd V. (September 2011). "Space Shuttle Missions Summary" (PDF). NASA. NASA/TM–2011–216142. Retrieved August 24, 2022.
  31. ^ Chaisson 1994, pp. 41–42.
  32. ^ Chaisson 1994, pp. 48–49.
  33. ^ Sullivan 2019, p. 218.
  34. ^ a b "STS-45". NASA. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  35. ^ "LSDA Mission – STS-45". NASA. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  36. ^ "An Oscar ..." NASA magazine. Summer 1992. p. 3. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  37. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 232–233.
  38. ^ "STS-43". NASA. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  39. ^ "Kathryn D. Sullivan". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  40. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 226–227.
  41. ^ "Kathryn D. Sullivan Papers". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved February 15, 2022.
  42. ^ a b Sullivan 2019, pp. 229–230.
  43. ^ "The First Women of the Explorers Club". Discovery. Retrieved February 23, 2022.
  44. ^ Schwartz, Barbara (August 14, 1992). "Astronaut Sullivan to Become Chief Scientist at NOAA" (PDF) (Press release). 92-046. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  45. ^ Sullivan 2019, pp. 234–236.
  46. ^ "National Science Board Elects Physician and Former Astronaut to be New Officers" (Press release). May 11, 2006. 06-081. Retrieved February 16, 2022.
  47. ^ a b "Brown confers six honorary degrees". Brown University. April 28, 2015. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  48. ^ "Kathryn D. Sullivan appointed as assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction for NOAA". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. May 4, 2011. Archived from the original on February 15, 2018. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
  49. ^ a b Morello, Lauren (August 5, 2013). "Former Astronaut Picked to Lead NOAA". Scientific American. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
  50. ^ Clayton, Ciaran (March 6, 2014). "Kathryn Sullivan confirmed as NOAA administrator". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  51. ^ "AccuWeather's CEO Barry Myers Nominated to Lead NOAA". Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association. October 17, 2017. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  52. ^ "Former Astronaut and NOAA Administrator Kathy D. Sullivan Named National Air and Space Museum's Lindbergh Fellow". National Air and Space Museum. January 26, 2017. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  53. ^ "Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, Senior Fellow". Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  54. ^ Presenter: Jane Garvey; Producer: Anna Lacey; Guest: Kathryn Sullivan (March 3, 2020). "Hubble astronaut Kathryn Sullivan; Romy Gill cooks spicy chickpeas; Reducing domestic violence". Woman's Hour. 0:40 minutes in. BBC. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  55. ^ "Handprints on Hubble". Royal Institution. Retrieved March 7, 2020.
  56. ^ Murphy, Heather (June 8, 2020). "First American Woman to Walk in Space Reaches Deepest Spot in the Ocean". New York Times. Archived from the original on June 9, 2020. Retrieved June 9, 2020.
  57. ^ McGreevy, Nora (June 10, 2020). "Astronaut Kathy Sullivan Becomes First Woman to Reach Deepest Part of the Ocean". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved February 24, 2022.
  58. ^ "Former NASA astronaut Kathy Sullivan becomes first person to travel to space and ocean's deepest point". ABC News. June 9, 2020. Retrieved August 20, 2022.
  59. ^ Cooper, Kelly-Leigh (June 14, 2020). "The woman making history in sea and space". BBC News. Retrieved June 15, 2020.
  60. ^ "Agency Review Teams". President-Elect Joe Biden. Retrieved November 10, 2020.
  61. ^ Hopkins, Earl (September 23, 2021). "Former COSI CEO Kathryn Sullivan handpicked for President's Council of Advisers on Science & Technology". Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  62. ^ "Historical Recipient List" (PDF). NASA. Retrieved April 24, 2021.
  63. ^ "American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics". Archived from the original on February 21, 2019. Retrieved January 4, 2015.
  64. ^ "SWG Gold Medalists". Society of Woman Geographers. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  65. ^ "Pennant, Society of Woman Geographers, STS 41-G, Sullivan". Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Retrieved February 3, 2020.
  66. American Academy of Achievement
    . Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  67. ^ "Women in Space Science Award" (PDF). Adler Planetarium. May 11, 2017. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  68. ^ "The 100 Most Influential People". Time. April 23, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2022.
  69. ^ "2013 Honorary Degrees". Willamette University. Archived from the original on May 4, 2020. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  70. ^ "Brown awards six honorary doctorates | News from Brown". Brown University. Retrieved February 12, 2022.
  71. ^ "Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History Series". July 30, 2015. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  72. ^ Mathews, Melissa; Farmer, Andrea (April 30, 2004). "Hall Of Fame Honors NASA Deputy Administrator" (Press release). NASA. 04-146. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  73. ^ "Members" (PDF). National Academy of Engineering. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  74. ^ "Kathryn D. Sullivan". American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved February 11, 2022.
  75. ^ "Honorary Geographer". American Association of Geographers. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  76. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2020: Who is on the list this year?". BBC News. November 23, 2020. Retrieved November 23, 2020.


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (PDF).

External links

Government offices
Preceded by Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Succeeded by
Benjamin Friedman