Press Release

NASA Names Former Apollo & Shuttle Commanders to Lead Columbia Accident Report Task Force

By SpaceRef Editor
June 13, 2003
Filed under , ,

NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe today said two veteran astronauts, Apollo commander Thomas P. Stafford and Space Shuttle commander Richard O. Covey, will lead a distinguished task force to assess the agency’s “Return to Flight” efforts and help implement the findings of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) when its final report is released later this summer.
“The Stafford-Covey Task Force will aid NASA by assessing the agency’s return to flight plans for the Space Shuttle and STS-114,” said Administrator O’Keefe. “Both men have rich backgrounds in technical engineering, safety, management, and other areas vital in expediting NASA’s implementation of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board’s recommendations.”

A retired Lieutenant General in the U.S. Air Force (USAF), Stafford also chairs the NASA Advisory Council Task Force on International Space Station Operational Readiness. He flew four missions during the Gemini and Apollo programs. He piloted Gemini VI (1965) and commanded Gemini IX (1966). He traveled to the Moon as commander of Apollo 10 (1969). His last mission was the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (1975), which achieved the first rendezvous between American and Russian spacecraft.
“General Stafford has spent his life advancing exploration objectives,” added Administrator O’Keefe. “He has served his nation and NASA for more than five decades in a variety of leadership positions. Heads of state from around the world, federal agencies, and private industry have all aggressively sought his counsel and stewardship. NASA is fortunate he’s agreed to accept this important assignment.”

Covey is a retired USAF colonel and veteran Space Shuttle commander. He served as pilot on STS-26 in 1988, the first flight after the Challenger accident. He has more than 30 years of aerospace experience in the private and public sectors.

Covey is a highly decorated combat pilot and Outstanding Graduate of the USAF Test Pilot School. During his 16-year career with NASA, Covey piloted STS-51-I (1985) and commanded Space Shuttle missions STS-38 (1990) and STS-61 (1993), where he led the team that initially repaired and restored the ailing Hubble Space Telescope.

“Dick flew the first Space Shuttle mission following Challenger, so he has extensive experience with what it takes to help the space program return to safe flight,” said Administrator O’Keefe. “There will always be risks associated with space exploration, but we’re going to do what we can to mitigate those risks. Dick’s experience will help the entire NASA family overcome those hurdles in the weeks and months to come.”

The Stafford-Covey Task Force is made up of eminent experts and industry professionals. They come from a wide range of disciplines, with expertise in program management, engineering, hardware integration, safety, and systems evaluation. These initial members will oversee NASA’s implementation of the CAIB’s recommendations. They will work closely with NASA’s Return to Flight team, led by Associate Administrator of Space Flight William F. Readdy and Associate Deputy Administrator for Technical Programs Dr. Michael Greenfield. Additional members will be added to the group throughout the implementation process.

Some of the members making up the highly honored panel includes:

  • Richard Danzig, an attorney and former Secretary of the Navy (1998-2001) during the Clinton Administration. He also previously served in the Carter Administration in the Department of Defense
  • Bill Anders, Apollo VIII astronaut, retired chairman/CEO of General Dynamics, and former member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
  • Ron Fogelman, retired General and former USAF Chief of Staff, with 34 years active service
  • Robert Sieck, member of the ASAP and aerospace consultant. He is former Director of Space Shuttle Processing at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla. He served as launch director for 52 Space Shuttle launches
  • William Wegner, U.S. Naval Academy graduate in 1948 and former deputy Director to Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, considered the father of the nuclear Navy
  • Dan Crippen, a veteran of Capitol Hill, former Director, Congressional Budget Office, and Domestic Policy Advisor to President Reagan
  • Walter H. Cantrell retired U.S. Navy (USN) Rear Admiral and member of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP). He’s a former Commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems with a distinguished history of reviewing highly complex technical programs

The latest list of task force Members is available on the Internet at:

SpaceRef staff editor.