Michael Clifford is a former U.S. Army officer and NASA astronaut. He was born Michael Richard Uram Clifford on October 13, 1952 in San Bernardino, California. He grew up in Ogden, Utah and was a First Class Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. He graduated from Ben Lomond High School, Ogden, Utah in 1970, and he then went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York in 1974. Eight years later, he furthered his education and earned a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
After his graduation from West Point, Clifford was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He attended the U.S. Army Aviation School in 1976 and graduated top of his class, and then was subsequently assigned for three years as a service platoon commander with the Attack Troop, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Nuremberg, West Germany. Clifford then came back to the States to earn his Master’s degree and worked as an instructor and assistant professor in the Department of Mechanics at West Point. In December of 1986, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School and was selected to be an Experimental Test Pilot. Less than a year later, he was assigned to the Johnson Space Center as a Space Shuttle Vehicle Integration engineer. His responsibilities involved acting as an engineering liaison for launch and landing operations of the Space Shuttle Program. He was also involved in design certification and integration of the Shuttle Crew Escape System, and was an executive board member of the Solid Rocket Booster Post-flight Assessment Team.
In 1990, NASA selected Clifford as an astronaut. He was initially assigned to the Astronaut Office Mission Development Branch where he participated in the design, development, and evaluation of Space Shuttle payloads and crew equipment having extravehicular activity interfaces. From May 1994 to September 1995 he served as lead for space station vehicle/assembly issues. In 1995, Clifford retired from the United States Army. Clifford is a veteran of three space flights; STS-53 in 1992, STS-59 in 1994, and STS-76 in 1996. Clifford first flew as a mission specialist aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. The flight launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on December 2, 1992. The STS-53 mission carried a Department of Defense payload and a variety of secondary payloads. Clifford operated numerous experiments, including the Fluid Acquisition and Re-supply Experiment, which was a microgravity fluid transfer experiment designed to evaluate improved spacecraft propellant tanks, and the Battlefield Laser Acquisition Sensor Test, which was a hand-held laser energy detector designed to detect and interpret a data message in a low-power Earth-based laser. After 115 orbits of the Earth, Discovery landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on December 9, 1992.
Clifford served his next mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour as a mission specialist for the STS-59 Space Radar Laboratory mission. It launched on April 9, 1994 and carried three radars, including the SIR-C/X-SAR (Shuttle Imaging Radar C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar). The imaging radars functioned in three frequencies and four polarizations, allowing them the capability to provide information about the Earth’s surface over a wide range of scales not apparent with previous single-frequency experiments. The carbon monoxide sensor used gas filter radiometry to measure the global distribution of CO in the troposphere. The mission was successful and, after 183 orbits of the Earth, landed on April 20, 1994.
Clifford’s final mission was on STS-76. The six man crew aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis launched on March 22, 1996 and headed for the Russian Space Station Mir. They docked with Mir to transfer a NASA Astronaut, as well as to transport 4800 pounds of science and mission hardware, food, water and air to the station and return over 1100 pounds of U.S. and ESA science and Russian hardware. While in space, Clifford performed a 6-hour spacewalk to mount experiment packages on the Mir docking module to detect and assess debris and contamination in a space station environment. This made him the first astronaut to perform a spacewalk while docked to an orbiting space station. The mission was also the first flight of Kidsat, an electronic camera controlled by classroom students via a Ku-bank link between JSC Mission Control and the Shuttle. After 145 orbits of the Earth, Atlantis landed at Edwards Air Force Base on March 31, 1996.
Clifford retired from NASA in January 1997 to accept the position of Space Station Flight Operations Manager for Boeing Defense and Space Group. He is currently married to his sweetheart Nancy. Together they have two sons named Richard Benjamin and Brandon Brunson. He enjoys flying, golf, tennis, water and snow skiing, baseball, and coaching youth sports. He is also a member of the Association of Space Explorers, American Helicopter Society, Army Aviation Association, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and has earned numerous awards such as the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement, NASA Space Flight Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.