Robert Laurel "Bob" Crippen (born September 11, 1937), (Capt, USN, Ret.), is a retired American naval officer and aviator, test pilot, aerospace engineer, and former astronaut for the United States Department of Defense and for NASA. He was the Pilot of the first Space Shuttle flight and flew three more missions as Commander. Crippen received the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.
Crippen was born September 11, 1937, in Beaumont, Texas. After graduating from New Caney High School in New Caney, Texas in 1955, Crippen received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin in 1960. He was selected as a member of the Texas Alpha chapter of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Gamma Tau.
Crippen was commissioned through the United States Navy's Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) Program at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. He continued his flight training at Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Florida, and went from there to Naval Air Station Chase Field in Beeville, Texas, where he received his wings. As a Naval Aviator from June 1962 to November 1964, he made two deployments aboard the aircraft carrier USS Independence, flying the A-4 Skyhawk in Attack Squadron 72 (VA-72). He later attended the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Upon graduation he remained at Edwards as an instructor until he was picked for the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) spaceflight program in October 1966.
He has logged more than 6,500 hours flying time, which includes more than 5,500 hours in jet aircraft.
After the MOL program was cancelled, Crippen became a NASA astronaut in September 1969. He served on the astronaut support crew for the Skylab 2, Skylab 3, and Skylab 4 missions, and for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission. He was the Pilot of the first orbital test flight of the Space Shuttle program (STS-1, April 12–14, 1981) and was the Commander of three additional Shuttle flights: STS-7, June 18–24, 1983; STS-41-C, April 6–13, 1984; and STS-41-G, October 6–13, 1984. In addition to participating in the first Shuttle flight, he also presided over the first five-person crew (STS-7, which included Sally Ride, the first American woman in space), the first satellite repair operation (STS-41-C, which repaired the Solar Maximum Mission satellite), and the first seven-person crew (STS-41-G). He was named Commander of the STS-62-A mission which would have launched from the new SLC-6 facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. That mission was cancelled after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and SLC-6 was closed when the Air Force went back to launching satellites on the Titan III and Titan IV rockets.
Crippen was stationed at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, from July 1987 to December 1989, as Deputy Director, Shuttle Operations for NASA Headquarters. He was responsible for final Shuttle preparation, mission execution and return of the orbiter to KSC after landings at Edwards Air Force Base. From January 1990 to January 1992, he served as Director, Space Shuttle, at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. As such, he was responsible for the overall Shuttle program requirements, performance, and total program control, including budget, schedule and program content. He subsequently served as the Director of the Kennedy Space Center from January 1992 to January 1995.