Daniel Bursch is an engineer and former NASA astronaut. He was born Daniel Wheeler Bursch on July 25, 1957 in Bristol, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Vestal Senior High School in Vestal, New York in 1975, and he then went on to attend United States Naval Academy and received a Bachelor of Science degree in physics in 1979. Upon his graduation, he was designated a Naval Flight Officer at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. He finished training as an A-6E Intruder bombardier/navigator, he reported to VA-34 in January 1981. He deployed to the Mediterranean aboard the USS John F. Kennedy, and then to the North Atlantic and Indian Oceans aboard the USS America. Upon his return to the United States, he attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and worked as a project test flight officer flying the A-6 Intruder. In April 1987, Bursch was assigned to the Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group 1, as Strike Operations Officer. He wanted to further his education, so he attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California until his selection to the astronaut program.
In January 1990, Bursch was selected by NASA and became an astronaut in July of 1991. He was assigned to technical duties such as working on controls and displays for the Space Shuttle and Space Station, the Chief of Astronaut Appearances, and spacecraft communicator in mission control. His first flight was as a mission specialist on STS-51, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center on September 12, 1993. During the mission, the crew aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery deployed the U.S. Advanced Communications Technology Satellite and the Shuttle Pallet Satellite. The mission ended on September 22, 1993 with the first evening landing at the Kennedy Space Center. His second flight on STS-68 was aboard space shuttle Endeavour for Space Radar Lab-2. They launched from the Kennedy Space Center on September 30, 1994. SRL-2 was the second flight of three advanced radars as part of NASA’s Mission to Planet Earth. SIR-C/X-SAR and MAPS operated together in the cargo bay to study the Earth’s surface and atmosphere. The SRL-2 mission was a very successful test of technology. Following 183 orbits of the Earth, the shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force Base on October 11, 1994. His third flight as a mission specialist was STS-77, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center on May 19, 1996. It was designated as SPACEHAB-4 and consisted of many fluid physics and biotechnology experiments with an emphasis on commercial space product development. The mission completed four rendezvous supporting two satellites sponsored by the Goddard Space Flight Center and the SPARTAN 207/Inflatable Antenna Experiment. On May 29, 1996, following 160 orbits of the Earth, the mission ended with Space Shuttle Endeavour landing at the Kennedy Space Center.
In 2001, Bursch was launched into space as an engineer. Expedition 4 launched on December 5, 2001 and docked with the International Space Station two days later. The crew stayed aboard the Space Station for six months and conducted flight tests of the station hardware, performed internal and external maintenance tasks, and developed the capability of the station to support the addition of science experiments. Bursch performed two spacewalks, logging 11 hours and 48 minutes of EVA time. The mission crew returned to Earth with Endeavour landing safely at Edwards Air Force Base on June 19, 2002.
Bursch retired from NASA in June 2005. He is married to the former Roni J. Patterson, and he has four children, two boys and two girls. He has received numerous awards throughout his career, such as the Defense Superior Service Medal, NASA Space Flight Medals, the Navy Commendation Medal, and the Navy Achievement Medal.