Ken Bowersox is an engineer, United States Naval officer, and a former NASA astronaut. He was born Kenneth Dwane Bowersox on November 14, 1956 in Portsmouth, Virginia. However, he considers Bedford, Indiana his hometown, and he graduated from Bedford High School in 1974. When he was a child, his family moved to Oxnard, California, and Bowersox was an Eagle Scout. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the United States Naval Academy, and was commissioned shortly after. In 1978, he attended the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School and graduated with class 85A. He was a test pilot on A-7E and F/A-18 aircraft. He also earned a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Columbia University in 1979.
In 1987, Bowersox was selected as an astronaut candidate. He first flew as a pilot on the STS-50 mission, which launched aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on June 25, 1992. It was the first flight of the United States Microgravity Laboratory and the first Extended Duration Orbiter flight. During the mission, the flight crew conducted a wide variety of experiments relating to materials processing and fluid physics in a microgravity environment. The mission ended safely on July 8, 1992. Bowersox was also a pilot aboard STS-61, which was the Hubble Space Telescope servicing and repair mission. The eleven day flight launched on December 2, 1993, and the HST was captured and restored to full capacity with five space walks.
Bowersox then commanded the STS-73 mission two years later. It launched on October 20, 1995, as the second flight of the USML. The mission focused mainly on materials science, biotechnology, combustion science, the physics of fluids, and many other scientific experiments inside the Spacelab module. In 1997, he commanded his second mission, STS-82. This was the second Hubble Space Telescope maintenance mission, and it launched aboard Shuttle Discovery on February 11, 1997. The crew was able to successfully retrieve and secure the HST in the shuttle’s payload bay. Two teams installed new spectrometers and eight replacement instruments within five spacewalks. They also replaced insulation patches over three compartments containing key data processing, electronics and scientific instrument telemetry packages.
Bowersox’s final mission was launched on STS-113 for an extended stay aboard the International Space Station. He served as the commander of ISS Expedition 6 from November 23, 2002 to May 3, 2003. During his stay on the ISS, he worked with both U.S. and Russian science experiments. Bowersox completed two spacewalks to continue the external furnishing of the orbital outpost. The Expedition-6 crew then returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-1 instead of the Space Shuttle.
Bowersox retired from NASA on September 30, 2006. He was appointed vice president of Astronaut Safety and Mission Assurance on June 16, 2009 at SpaceX. He was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame on June 8, 2010.