Joseph Allen is a former NASA astronaut who logged more than 3,000 hours of flying time. He was born Joseph Percival Allen on June 27, 1937 in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He graduated from Crawfordsville High School in Indiana, and went to on earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics and physics from DePauw University in 1959. He then furthered his education and earned a Master of Science degree in 1961 and a Doctor of Philosophy degree in physics from Yale University in 1965. He became a staff physicist at the Nuclear Structure Laboratory at Yale University and held the position for two years.
In 1967, Allen was selected as a scientist-astronaut by NASA. He completed flight training at Vance Air Force Base, Oklahoma and then served as mission scientist while he was a member of the astronaut support crew for Apollo 15. He was also a staff consultant on science and technology to the President’s Council on International Economic Policy. In August 1975, Allen became a NASA Assistant Administrator for Legislative Affairs in Washington, D.C. Three years later, he returned to the Johnson Space Center as a senior scientist astronaut. He was chosen as a support crew member for the first orbital flight test of the Space Transportation System and was the entry CAPCOM for the mission. Finally, Allen was assigned to his first space flight as a mission specialist on STS-5, the first fully operational flight of the Shuttle Transportation System. They launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida on November 11, 1982. He flew with Vance D. Brand, Robert F. Overmyer, and William B. Lenoir. The mission was the first to utilize the Payload Assist Module and its new ejection system. It was also the last mission to carry the Development Flight Instrumentation package to support flight testing. They returned to Earth at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on November 16, 1982.
Two years later, Allen received his second space assignment as a mission specialist on STS 51-A with Frederick Hauck, David Walker, Anna Fisher, and Dale Gardner. The crew launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on November 8, 1984. During the mission, they deployed two satellites, Canada’s Anik D-2 and Hughes’ Syncom IV-1. They also carried out the 3M Company’s Diffusive Mixing of Organic Solutions experiment. Most importantly, the crew made the first space salvage attempt in history and successfully retrieved the Palapa B-2 and Westar VI communications satellites for their return to Earth. They landed back in Florida eight days later.
Following his last space flight, Allen served as chief executive officer of Space Industries International, Washington, D.C. He retired from NASA in 2004, and was inducted into the US Astronaut Hall of Fame a year later. Allen is currently married to Bonnie Jo Darling, and they have two children: David and Elizabeth.