David Mathieson Walker
Captain, United States Navy
contemporary press reports:
Retired astronaut David Walker, a member of the first pool of astronauts hired in 1978 specifically to fly shuttle missions, died today (23 April 2001) from cancer at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas.
Walker, a retired Navy captain and former test pilot, was 56. He is survived by his wife, Paige, and by two sons from previous marriages.
Walker flew four shuttle missions for NASA, three of them as mission commander. He flew as a pilot aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1984 and went on to command space shuttle missions in 1989, 1992 and 1995.
Walker's most notable mission was the 1989 Magellan mission aboard the shuttle Atlantis. A probe launched by Walker and his crew during that mission encountered Venus in 1990, and helped scientists map the surface of that planet.
Walker said of that mission that he and his crew felt an emotional attachment to Magellan: "We feel caught up in the scientific significance of it," he said.
"We had a small part to play in it, but we are emotionally attached to Magellan as it takes off to Venus, and we intend to watch very closely."
Then President George Bush called to congratulate Walker and his crew and to invite them to the White House to be honored for their mission.
While flying a T-38 jet trainer to those ceremonies, Walker came within 100 feet of a Pan Am jetliner just outside Washington, D.C., and was subsequently grounded for flight rule infractions.
There were questions over what role air traffic controllers played in the incident, however, and Walker went on to resume his NASA flight duties in 1991.
Walker flew twice with astronaut Jim Voss, who is currently living on the international space station Alpha, said NASA spokeswoman Eileen Hawley.
Hawley said the crews of Alpha and the space shuttle Endeavour would be notified of Walker's death.
Walker left NASA in 1996 for a sales and marketing position with NDC Voice Corp. of California. He since had retired to Boise, Idaho, although he sometimes worked as a consultant.
are pending for Walker, who will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
Flags at Johnson Space Center will fly at half-staff until Walker's burial,
Captain Walker, a former test pilot, was among the first group of space shuttle astronauts chosen by NASA in 1978. He flew as a pilot aboard space shuttle Discovery in 1984 and went on to command three shuttle missions, in 1989, 1992 and 1995.
Flying in space, he once said, is "the most spectacular human experience that I've been involved in."
His career at NASA suffered a setback in 1990 when he was temporarily grounded for flight-rule infractions. They included a 1989 incident in which the NASA T-38 jet trainer he was flying came within 100 feet of a Pan Am jetliner outside Washington.
Capt. Walker had flown to Washington for White House ceremonies honoring the crew of the space flight he had just commanded. The crew launched the Magellan probe that went on to successfully map the surface of Venus.
In all, Captain Walker logged almost 725 hours in space.
He left NASA in 1996 to become vice president of sales and marketing for NDC Voice Corp. in Southern California, and then moved to Idaho.
Survivors include his wife, Paige, and two
DAVID WALKER, VETERAN NASA ASTRONAUT, DIES
David Mathieson Walker (Captian, USN, Retired), veteran of four space shuttle missions including flights that rescued and deployed satellites, died April 23, 2001, following a sudden and brief illness. He was 56 years old.
Walker was selected by NASA in January 1978 and became an astronaut in August 1979. During his four missions he logged more than 700 hours in space.
“The NASA community has lost a great friend and an admired colleague,” said Johnson Space Center Director (Acting) Roy S. Estess. “Highly and deservedly decorated for his many achievements both as a Navy captain and as a NASA astronaut, Captain Walker served his country with distinction. His successful shuttle missions were indispensable in helping NASA further the exploration of space and enhance life on Earth.”
Walker first served as pilot on STS 51-A, the second flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery, in November 1984. During the nearly eight-day flight, the crew deployed two communications satellites and conducted the first space salvage mission in history, retrieving two inoperable communications satellites for return to Earth.
In his first space flight as a shuttle commander, Atlantis’ STS-30 mission in May 1989, Walker and his crew successfully deployed the Magellan spacecraft, the first planetary probe to be released from the space shuttle. Magellan arrived at Venus in August 1990 and mapped 95 percent of the surface of the planet. Crewmembers also worked on secondary payloads involving fluid research and chemistry during the four-day mission.
Walker next commanded a five-member crew on STS-53 in December 1992 aboard Discovery. His crew deployed a classified Department of Defense payload and performed experiments during its seven-day mission.
Walker flew his final mission as a shuttle commander in September 1995. The STS-69 crew deployed and retrieved two payloads during the nearly 11-day flight aboard Endeavour. The Wake Shield Facility, a saucer-shaped satellite that flew free of the shuttle for several days, was deployed to grow thin films in the near perfect vacuum created by the wake of the satellite as it moved through space. The other payload, the Spartan-201 astronomy satellite, helped researchers study the outer atmosphere of the Sun and its transition into the solar wind that constantly flows past the Earth. Crewmembers also performed a six-hour space walk to test assembly techniques for the International Space Station.
Walker was born in Columbus, Georgia, May 20, 1944, and was raised in the family home in Eustis, Florida. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1966.
Following his graduation from Annapolis, Walker received flight training from the Naval Aviation Training Command at bases in Florida, Mississippi and Texas. Designated a Naval aviator in December 1967, he proceeded to Naval Air Station Miramar in California for assignment to fly F-4 Phantoms from the carriers USS Enterprise and USS America.
In January 1972, he was assigned as an experimental and engineering test pilot in the flight test division at the Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent River, Maryland, While there, he participated in the Navy’s preliminary evaluation and Board of Inspection and Survey trials of the F-14 Tomcat and tested a leading edge slat modification to the F-4 Phantom.
Three years later, Walker was assigned to Fighter Squadron 142, stationed at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, as a fighter pilot and was deployed to the Mediterranean Sea twice aboard USS America.
He logged more than 7,500 hours flying time including more than 6,500 hours in jet aircraft.
Walker retired from NASA in April 1996. Until his illness, he was active as the president of the Idaho Aviation Foundation, a non-profit corporation promoting general aviation in the state of Idaho.
Walker’s honors and awards included the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross, the National Intelligence Medal of Achievement, the Legion of Merit, two Defense Meritorious Service Medals, six Navy Air Medals, the Battle Efficiency Ribbon, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, two NASA Distinguished Service Medals, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, four NASA Space Flight Medals, the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, the Vietnam Service Medal, and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.
Survivors include his wife, Paige, and two children, Michael and Mathieson.
A private memorial service will be held Friday
at the Johnson Space Center. No public services are planned. Interment
will take place in May at Arlington National Cemetery.
He has logged more than 7500 hours flying time--over 6500 hours in jet aircraft.
Selected by NASA in January 1978, Walker became an astronaut in August 1979. Among his technical assignments he served as Astronaut Office Safety Officer; Deputy Chief of Aircraft Operations; STS-1 chase pilot; software verification at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL); mission support group leader for STS-5 and STS-6; Assistant to the Director, Flight Crew Operations; leader of the astronaut support crew at Kennedy Space Center; Branch Chief, Space Station Design and Development; and Special Manager for Assembly, Space Station Project Office. From July 1993 to June 1994, Walker was Chief of the Station/Exploration Support Office, Flight Crew Operations Directorate, after which he chaired the JSC Safety Review Board.
A veteran of four space flights, Walker has logged over 724 hours in space. He was the pilot on STS 51-A in 1984, and was the mission commander on STS-30 in 1989, STS-53 in 1992 and STS-69 in 1995.
Walker left NASA in April 1996 to become Vice President, Sales & Marketing, for NDC Voice Corporation in Southern California.
SPACE FLIGHT EXPERIENCE:
STS 51-A Discovery (November 8-16, 1984) was launched from and returned to land at Kennedy Space Center, Florida.. During the mission the crew deployed two satellites, Canada’s Anik D-2 (Telesat H), and Hughes’ LEASAT-1 (Syncom IV-1). In the first space salvage mission in history the crew also retrieved for return to Earth the Palapa B-2 and Westar VI satellites. Mission duration was 127 Earth orbits in 7 days, 23 hours, 44 minutes, 56 seconds.
STS-30 Atlantis (May 4-8, 1989) was launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. During the 4-day mission the crew successfully deployed the Magellan Venus-exploration spacecraft, the first U.S. planetary science mission launched since 1978, and the first planetary probe to be deployed from the Shuttle. Magellan arrived at Venus in August 1990, and mapped over 95% of the surface of Venus. In addition, the crew also worked on secondary payloads involving fluid research in general, chemistry, and electrical storm studies. Following 64 orbits of the Earth, the STS-30 mission concluded with the first cross-wind landing test of the Shuttle Orbiter at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
STS-53 Discovery (December 2-9, 1992) was launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and also returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During 115 Earth orbits the five-man crew deployed a classified Department of Defense payload DOD-1 and then performed several Military-Man-in-Space and NASA experiments. Mission duration was 175 hours, 19 minutes, 17 seconds.
STS-69 Endeavour (September
7-18, 1995) was launched from and returned to land at Kennedy Space Center,
Florida. During the mission the crew successfully deployed and retrieved
a SPARTAN satellite and the Wake Shield Facility. Also on board was the
International Extreme Ultraviolet Hitchhiker payload, and numerous secondary
payloads and medical experiments. Mission duration was 10-days, 20 hours,
David M. Walker, a retired astronaut who flew on four space shuttle missions and was decorated as a Navy fighter pilot, died Monday at a cancer center in Houston. He was 56 and lived near Boise, Idaho.
Mr. Walker's family said his illness was sudden and recent, but they did not give any details.
Mr. Walker, who retired as an astronaut in 1996, was among the first group of space shuttle astronauts chosen by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in 1978.
He flew as a pilot aboard the Discovery shuttle in 1984 on the first mission in which a shuttle retrieved satellites. He went on to command three shuttle missions, in 1989, 1992 and 1995.
James S. Voss, currently a resident aboard the International Space Station, flew twice in space with Mr. Walker and, aware of his illness, spoke with Mr. Walker by radio on Sunday.
Mr. Walker liked to live life on the edge and enjoyed his stints as a fighter pilot, a test pilot and a shuttle commander, said Col. Robert D. Cabana of the Marine Corps, an astronaut and longtime friend.
"He was kind of a throwback to the 1960s," Cabana said.
A native of Columbus, Georgia, Mr. Walker graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1966 and became an aviator.
During the Vietnam War, he flew F-4 Phantom fighters from the carriers Enterprise and America and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. He later attended test pilot school at Edwards Air Force Base in California and served as an engineering pilot at the Naval Air Test Center in Patuxent River, Md.
He logged more than 7,500 hours flying time, including 6,500 hours in jet aircraft, and tallied nearly 725 hours in space. Mr. Walker once said that flying in space was "the most spectacular human experience that I've been involved in."
Mr. Walker was grounded briefly in 1990 after the T-38 jet trainer he was flying came within 100 feet of an airliner outside Washington the year before.
Mr. Walker had been in Washington for White House ceremonies honoring the crew of a shuttle mission he had just commanded.
After leaving NASA, he became vice president of a Southern California telephone company and later was a consultant for the aerospace industry.
Mr. Walker was a technical consultant for the 1998 film "Deep Impact," which was about a comet striking Earth.
Flags are to be flown at half-staff at Johnson Space Center in Houston until the burial of Mr. Walker, a retired Navy captain, at Arlington National Cemetery. No date has been set.
Mr. Walker is survived by his wife, the former Paige Lucas, and two sons from a previous marriage.