Owen Garriott

Owen Garriott is a former United States Navy officer and NASA astronaut. He was born Owen Kay Garriott on November 22, 1930 in Enid, Oklahoma. In 1948 he graduated from Enid High School and then went on to attend the University of Oklahoma, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering in 1953. He subsequently joined the United States Navy and worked his way to the role of officer. However, just three years later Garriott decided to leave the Navy to pursue a higher education. He moved to California and attended Stanford University, where he earned a Master of Science in electrical engineering in 1957 and a Doctorate in electrical engineering in 1960. After he received his Ph.D, Garriott accepted a position as an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at Stanford.

In 1965, Garriott was chosen to be a NASA scientist-astronaut.  He then worked through a year long U.S. Air Force Pilot Training Program and trained to be a pilot in jet aircraft. On July 28, 1973 Garriott was launched into space for the first time. The Skylab 3 mission launched the Saturn IB rocket to dock with Skylab, where the crew spent about two months conducting various experiments and studies. They documented the physiological effects of spaceflight on humans by measuring things like torso and limbs, arterial blood flow, dental health, and urine mass. This ultimately helped scientists understand the fluid shift phenomena. They also performed biological experiments on cell cultures, mice, and fruit. Additionally, Garriott went on three spacewalks; the mission ended by returning the crew to Earth on September 25, 1973.

After his return from Skylab 3, Garriott worked as the director of science and applications at the Johnson Space Center. In 1975, Garriott was granted a NASA fellowship for one year’s study at Stanford. When he completed the study, he returned to JSC and was responsible for physical science research. His second flight to space was aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on the STS-9 mission, which launched on November 28, 1983. It was Columbia’s sixth mission and it carried the first Spacelab module into orbit. The crew completed over seventy experiments related to astronomy, solar physics, life sciences, and Earth observations. In addition, Garriott became the first amateur radio operator to make ham radio transmissions in space. After 166 orbits of the Earth, the mission ended December 8, 1983. For the next three years he worked as a scientist in the Space Station Project Office.

In June 1986, Garriott left NASA to work for various aerospace companies as a consultant. From January 1988 to May 1993, he was vice president of space programs at Teledyne Brown Engineering, which provided payload integration for all Spacelab projects at the Marshall Space Flight Center. His most recent position was as an adjunct professor in the Laboratory for Structural Biology at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Throughout his life, Garriott has co-authored multiple books, including Homesteading Space, Introduction to Ionospheric Physics, and NASA’s Scientist-Astronauts. On October 12, 2008, Garriott’s son, Richard Garriott, was launched into space as a space tourist and became the first American to follow a parent to space.

Image Caption: Owen Kay Garriott. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia