- Press Release
- August 9, 2022
George W.S. Abbey Announces Retirement
In a distinguished federal service career that spanned
a half-century, George W.S. Abbey today announced his
retirement from NASA, effective January 3, 2003. Abbey
leaves the agency after a highly decorated aerospace career,
which included the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest
civilian award, for his role on the Apollo 13 Mission
In February 2001, Abbey became the Senior Assistant for
International Issues reporting to the NASA administrator.
Subsequent, he was appointed as a Senior Visiting Fellow at
the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice
University. He is also working with the University of Texas
El Paso to enhance the University’s engineering and science
programs and encourage young students to pursue careers in
science and engineering.
“George helped to shape some of NASA’s most difficult
programs and missions as a true innovator and pioneer,” said
Administrator Sean O’Keefe. “Throughout his eminent career,
George distinguished both himself and the agency. He leaves
behind a legacy of excellence and dedication that the
hardworking people of NASA will follow for years to come.”
Abbey joined NASA in 1964, as an Air Force Captain assigned
to the Apollo Program. In December 1967 he left the Air
Force and was named technical assistant to the JSC Center
Director. In January 1976, he was named Director of Flight
Operations, where he was responsible for operational
planning and for the overall direction and management of
flight crew and flight control activities for all human
space flight missions.
In 1983, he became Director of Flight Crew Operations
Directorate, where he continued to be responsible for all
Space Shuttle flight crews and center aircraft operations.
Abbey was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator for Space
Flight at NASA Headquarters in Washington in March 1988. In
July 1990, he was selected as Deputy for Operations and
senior NASA representative to the Synthesis Group, chaired
by former Apollo astronaut Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, USAF
(ret.), and charged with defining strategies for returning
to the Moon and landing on Mars.
In July 1991, Abbey was appointed Senior Director for Civil
Space Policy for the National Space Council in the Executive
Office of the President, and in 1992 he was named as Special
Assistant to the NASA Administrator. Abbey was named Deputy
Director of JSC in 1994 and was selected as the JSC Center
Director in 1996.
Born in Seattle on August 21, 1932, Abbey received his
bachelor’s degree in general science from the U.S. Naval
Academy, Annapolis, Md., in 1954, and a master’s degree in
electrical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of
Technology, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1959.
A pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Abbey had more than 4,000
hours in various types of aircraft before being detailed to
NASA. This year, 2002, he was selected as a Distinguished
Alumnus of the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.
Abbey’s numerous honors and awards include the NASA
Exceptional Service Medal, the NASA Outstanding Leadership
Medal, three NASA Distinguished Service Medals and the 1970
Medal of Freedom, which was presented by President Richard
M. Nixon, for his distinguished civilian service in
peacetime. He was the recipient of the Rotary National
Award for Space Achievement in 1997.
“George is a demanding leader who rarely accepts
compromise,” added Administrator O’Keefe. “His ability to
motivate and inspire his staff to work harder and smarter
helped NASA write much of its human space flight history.
His devotion to the success of America’s space program is
unquestionable and I wish him the best.”