Karol Bobko is an engineer, retired United States Air Force officer and a former USAF and NASA astronaut. He was born Karol Joseph Bobko on December 23, 1937 in New York City, New York. He graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School and went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Air Force Academy in 1959. He received his commission and navigator rating, and then he attended pilot training at Bartow Air Base. He completed his flight training and received his wings in 1960. From 1961 to 1965, he piloted F-100 and F-105 aircraft with the 523d Tactical Fighter Squadron at Cannon Air Force Base and the 336th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. He also attended the Aerospace Research Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base and was assigned as an astronaut to the USAF Manned Orbiting Laboratory program in 1966.
NASA selected Bobko to become an astronaut in September 1969 after the MOL program was cancelled. He was a crewmember on the Skylab Medical Experiments Altitude Test, which was a 56-day ground simulation of the Skylab mission. It enabled the crew to collect medical experiments baseline data and evaluate equipment, operations and procedures. After the mission, he earned a Master of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Southern California in 1970.
In July 1975, Bobko was a member of the astronaut support crew for the Apollo”“Soyuz Test Project, which was the first international manned space flight. After the project, he served on the support crew for the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests conducted at Edwards Air Force Base. He served alternately as CAPCOM and prime chase pilot during these Approach and Landing Test flights. Bobko was the pilot for STS-6, which launched aboard the shuttle Challenger on April 4, 1983 from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the mission, the crew deployed a large communications satellite and the rocket stage required to enhance it to geosynchronous orbit. The STS-6 crew also performed the first shuttle spacewalk, and they conducted various other experiments. There were also three Getaway Specials activated on the flight. After 120 hours of orbiting, the mission landed at Edwards Air Force Base on April 9, 1983. On his second mission, Bobko commanded STS-51-D aboard shuttle Discovery, which launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 12, 1985. The crew deployed two communication satellites, conducted electrophoresis and echocardiograph operations in space, as well as accomplished alternate experiments. However, one of the communication satellites malfunctioned, so the crew attempted to activate the satellite. This required another EVA, rendezvous, and operations with the remote manipulator arm. The mission ended on April 19, 1985 at Kennedy Space Center. Bobko’s final flight was as commander of STS-51-J aboard Atlantis. It was the second Space Shuttle Department of Defense mission and launched from Kennedy Space Center on October 3, 1985. After 98 hours of orbiting, the crew landed on Edwards Air Force Base on October 7, 1985.
Three years after his last flight, Bobko retired from NASA and the Air Force and joined Booz Allen Hamilton in Houston, Texas. There he was a principal and managed attempts with human space flights. In 2000, he joined SPACEHAB, Inc. as Vice President for Strategic Programs. Five years later, he became a Program Manager and joined the Science Applications International Corporation. He currently leads an organization that is responsible for mounting and incorporating hardware and software for a variety of simulations.