Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Joseph P. Allen, Ph.D.

MBARI Board of Directors
Former Astronaut, Director of Astronaut Training and Operations, and Assistant Administrator at NASA

Reflections from the Edge of the Earth

Wednesday — June 20, 2012
Pacific Forum — 3:00 p.m.

Although the Space Age began with the launch of Sputnik in October of 1957, the Space Race began 50 years ago this year with the launch of John Glenn—the first American to orbit the Earth—and, shortly before Glenn's flight, with the challenge President Kennedy put to our nation to land an American on the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade, i.e. before 1970. I joined NASA as a Scientist Astronaut after the Mercury and Gemini missions had been flown, but before any of the Apollo missions had begun. Thus, I had literally a front-row seat for every mission of the late 1960s through the early 1980s. I also had the great privilege of flying aboard Space Shuttle Mission 5 (the first mission to carry cargo to orbit) and aboard Space Shuttle Mission 14 (the first and last mission to bring back cargo salvaged from space).

Sadly, the last of the Space Shuttle missions ended about one year ago. We Americans for the foreseeable future are no longer in the business of human space flight.

I will give an overview of the halcyon days of NASA, now past. And I will describe the human experience of traveling off the surface of our planet and beyond the edge of the Earth.

Dr. Joseph P. Allen served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Veridian Corporation until its purchase by the General Dynamics Corporation in late 2003. At that time, Veridian was a public company (NYSE: VNX) with annual revenues in excess of $1 billion. In the late '80s and early '90s Allen served as the President and President/CEO of Space Industries, Inc., a precursor of the Veridian Corporation.

Some years earlier, Dr. Allen was a research associate at Brookhaven National Laboratory and at Yale University, then served as a member of the physics faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. In 1967, NASA selected Allen as one of nine Scientist-Astronauts, a position he held until 1985. While at NASA, Dr. Allen served as a mission controller for Apollo 15, Apollo 17 and Space Shuttle flight STS-1. He later flew as an astronaut aboard "Columbia" (STS-5), the first space shuttle mission to carry cargo to orbit, and then aboard "Discovery" (STS-14), the only mission to date to salvage cargo from orbit.

During his NASA career, Allen also served as Assistant Administrator of NASA from 1975-1978 and as Director of Astronaut Training and Operations in the early 1980s.

Dr. Allen holds a M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics from Yale University and an undergraduate degree in mathematics and physics from DePauw University. He is the author of Entering Space: an Astronaut’s Odyssey, a personal account of the space flight experience, and he has published widely in the fields of physics and space research. Dr. Allen currently serves as a director of United Space Alliance, Houston, Texas; a director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, Moss Landing, California; a trustee of the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, a trustee of the National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander, Wyoming; a trustee of DePauw University; an advisor to the Director of Major Gifts, Yale Graduate School, New Haven, Connecticut and as a Board Member of the Challenger Center, a charitable organization sponsoring Space Science Education projects in North America, Canada, England and Korea.

After leaving the academic environment in the late 1960's, Dr. Allen remained passionate about the importance, and genuine fun, of education. He continues to lecture widely at all levels, elementary through university classes.

A Fulbright Scholar to Germany in 1959-1960, Dr. Allen’s awards include the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the Wilber Cross Medal from Yale University, the Walter P. Cooke Award from the State University of New York at Buffalo and the Lloyd’s of London Silver Medal for Meritorious Services. He has been awarded several Honorary Doctor of Science degrees and he is an inductee into the U. S. National Wrestling Hall of Fame in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and into the Astronauts Hall of Fame in Cape Kennedy, Florida.


Next: July 18—Mary Silver, PhD