John Shannon has become the new Space Shuttle Program manager, following Wayne Hale’s departure to the role of NASA’s deputy associate administrator for strategic partnerships.
Shannon moves from the deputy position to take up the reins of the program that has achieved eight safe shuttle missions – under Hale as both deputy and manager of the program – since taking up the challenge of Return To Flight.
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Hugely respected, Hale began his career with NASA in 1978 as a propulsion officer in the Propulsion Systems Section, Flight Control Division of Flight Operations at the Johnson Space Center.
From May to November 1985, Hale was head of the Integrated Communications Section, Systems Division, Mission Operations, and head of the Propulsion Systems Section, Systems Division, Mission Operations, from November 1985 to March 1988.
Between March 1988 and January 2003, Hale served as a flight director in Mission Control for 41 Space Shuttle missions. He also served as deputy chief of the Flight Director Office for Shuttle Operations from 2001 to January 2003.
Hale then relocated to Kennedy Space Center to become the launch integration manager of the Space Shuttle Program effective February 1, 2003. Since the loss of Columbia, Hale moved to the role of deputy shuttle manager in July of 2003, before becoming the program manager in September 2005.
One of the most quotable managers at NASA, Hale is well known for giving calm and expansive answers to media questions, while also noted for writing some of the most inspirational memos during his time with the shuttle program.
‘This is probably a good time to remember what we are about and why we do it. We are in the business of sending people into space. Nothing more and nothing less. Actually there is quite a bit more, but certainly nothing less,’ wrote Hale in one memo to the program not long after the loss of Columbia. (A large collection are available on L2.)
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‘Space exploration – like all exploration – is about the human spirit. What is over the next hill? Antarctica and the depths of the oceans are no longer untouched and unimaginable. To inspire our young people and motivate our nation, the only objective is up.
‘The new version of manifest destiny is to explore the universe. We go into space not merely because it helps us economically, or fosters building new and improved gadgets; we go into space because that experience fulfils the nature of what it means to be human.
‘Enabling human hands to reach out and touch the universe is a goal worthy of the danger and sacrifice that human space flight has required.
‘We have certainly endured trials this year and we can expect more ahead of us. As we go into the next few days, I would offer these words of the great baseball player ‘Babe’ Ruth: ‘It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.’
Shannon was selected as the head of Space Shuttle Guidance, Navigation and Flight Control in 1992 and became a space shuttle flight director in 1993, supporting 58 shuttle missions. He holds the distinction of being the youngest flight director in NASA history.
After serving as deputy director of the Columbia Task Force in 2003, Shannon was selected to create the Space Shuttle Program’s Flight Operations and Integration Office.
Hale orginally claimed he would remain in the role until 2010. However, in Shannon, the program has a capable replacement.
Shannon takes over as program manager in time for the upcoming STS-123 Flight Readiness Reviews (FRR) next week.
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