Gregory Johnson is a NASA astronaut and a former colonel in the United States Air Force. He was born Gregory Harold “Box” Johnson on May 12, 1962 in South Ruislip, Middlesex, United Kingdom. Throughout his childhood, he became an Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts of America.. He graduated from Park Hills High School in Fairborn, Ohio in 1980 and went on to attend the United States Air Force Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1984. He was concurrently commissioned to the Air Force and reported to Reese Air Force Base in Texas, where he served as a T-38A instructor pilot until he was selected for an F-15E Eagle assignment in 1989. Johnson earned a Master of Science in flight structures engineering from Columbia University in 1985 during his time in the Air Force. In December 1990, Johnson flew 34 combat missions in support of Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. Two years later, he was deployed back to Saudi Arabia and flew an additional 27 combat missions in support of Operation Southern Watch. In 1993, he reported to Edwards Air Force Base for Air Force Test Pilot School. After he graduated, he was assigned to the 445th Flight Test Squadron at Edwards, where he flew and tested F-15C/E, NF-15B, and T-38A/B aircraft.
In June 1998, Johnson was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate. He reported for training two months later and completed Astronaut Candidate Training in 2000. His initial assignments included Technical Assistant to the Director of Flight Crew Operations and Member of the Shuttle Cockpit Avionics Upgrade council. In 2001, Johnson was reassigned to the Space Shuttle Branch, where he served as primary support for the crews of STS-100 and STS-108 as well as chief of shuttle abort planning and procedures for contingency scenarios. In 2003, Johnson played an important role in the investigation of the cause of the Columbia accident. The following year, he was designated as the Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Safety Branch and was responsible for all aspects of Space Shuttle, ISS, and T-38 safety. In 2005, he earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
Johnson’s first flight was as the pilot of STS-123, which launched on March 11, 2008 aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. The crew successfully delivered the first component of the Japanese Experiment Module and the Special Purpose Dexterous Manipulator to the International Space Station for the final piece of the Mobile Servicing Station. During the mission, Johnson served as the primary robotic arm operator. They returned to Earth after 15 days in space. Johnson’s second flight to space was as the pilot of STS-134, which was the second to last flight of NASA’s space shuttle program as well as the final flight for the Space Shuttle Endeavour. The almost month long mission launched on May 16, 2011 to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and an Express Logistics Carrier to the International Space Station.
Johnson retired from the Air Force on February 1, 2009 and continued to serve NASA as a civilian. He has been honored with numerous awards, such as the 2005 Stephen D. Thorne Top Fox Safety Award, the 2005 Dean’s Award for Academic Excellence, the NASA Superior Performance Award, the 1996 Lieutenant General Bobby Bond Award for the top Air Force test pilot, a Distinguished Flying Cross, two Meritorious Service Medals, four Air Medals, three Aerial Achievement Medals, an Air Force Commendation Medal, and two Air Force Achievement Medals. He is married to the former Cari M. Harbaugh, and they have three children: Matthew, Joseph, and Rachel.
Image Caption: Astronaut Gregory H. Johnson, pilot of STS-123. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia