Former NASA astronaut and West Michigan resident David C. Leestma. Captain Leestma (USN, ret.) is currently in charge of the Advanced Planning Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, his country’s most ambitious of all human space programs: return to the moon and an expedition to Mars.
Captain Leestma was born in Muskegon and lived for a time in Grand Rapids as a child. He moved to Munster, Indiana and then to California, where he completed his high school education. He obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the United States Naval Academy in 1971, graduating first in his class. Following completion of a Master of Science Degree from the U. S. Navy Postgraduate School, he embarked on a distinguished career in aviation in which he logged over 3,500 hours of flight time. He was named to the astronaut corps in 1980.
He is a veteran of three space shuttle flights, one of which included a three and one half hour “space walk.” He served as a capsule communicator for other flights. Following retirement from the astronaut corps, Captain Leestma became an administrator at the Johnson Space Center. Among his many assignments were both Deputy Chief and Acting Chief of the Astronaut Office, Director of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate, and Assistant Program Manager for the Orbital Space Plane, which will one day replace the Space Shuttle.
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