Donald Peterson is a retired United States Air Force officer and a former USAF and NASA astronaut. He was born Donald Herod Peterson on October 22, 1933 in Winona, Mississippi. He graduated from Winona High School and went on to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1955. He is also a graduate of the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California where he completed his training. His first assignment was as a flight instructor and military training officer with the Air Training Command. He held this position for four years, until he was offered a new position as a nuclear systems analyst with the Air Force Systems Command. Three years later he served a full year as a fighter pilot with Tactical Air Command. Following his time with the USAF, he went back to school and earned a Master’s degree in Nuclear Engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1962. In 1972, he was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, and the JSC Group Achievement Award. After completing 24 years of active service, Peterson retired as a colonel.
Peterson was chosen to become a NASA astronaut in September 1969. He initially served on the astronaut support crew for Apollo 16. His first flight was as a mission specialist on STS-6, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 4, 1983. He was accompanied by Paul J. Weitz (spacecraft commander), Col. Karol J. Bobko (pilot), and Dr. F. Story Musgrave (mission specialist). During the mission, he and the crew, Paul Weitz, Karol Bobko, and Story Musgrave, accomplished numerous experiments in materials processing, recorded lightning activities, as well as deployed the first Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and activated three Getaway Specials. Peterson also completed his first spacewalk to perform tests. He spent a total of 120 hours in space.
Peterson resigned from the NASA Astronaut Corps in November 1984, and since that time has worked as a consultant in the area of manned aerospace operations. Peterson is married, and has three children and four grandchildren.