Slayton, Donald Kent


Slayton, Donald Kent
▪ 1994

      ("DEKE"), U.S. astronaut (b. March 1, 1924, Sparta, Wis.—d. June 13, 1993, League City, Texas), was selected in 1959 by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts, the highly touted aviators who made solo spaceflights during the infancy of the U.S. space program. Slayton's flight, however, was delayed for 16 years (he had been scheduled to become the second in orbit, after John Glenn) because he was found to have an irregular heartbeat. In 1975, after the ailment unaccountably disappeared, he served as pilot of the Apollo docking module in the historic Apollo-Soyuz mission, in which U.S. and Soviet spacecraft linked in space. Slayton, who joined the air force in 1942, flew 56 combat missions during World War II. After the war he earned a B.A. in aeronautical engineering (1949) from the University of Minnesota and worked for Boeing Aircraft Co. in Seattle, Wash., before being recalled to active duty in the Minnesota Air National Guard. He became a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California after attending school there. When Slayton's dream of spaceflight as a Mercury Seven astronaut was crushed, he proved instrumental as chief of flight operations at the Johnson Space Center, where he directed astronaut training and chose crews for nearly all Gemini and Apollo missions. He was determined, however, to regain his health. Slayton quit smoking and started exercising and dieting. After participating in the last Apollo mission, Slayton returned to NASA in a managerial capacity, directing early tests of the space shuttle until his 1982 retirement. He then founded and directed Space Services Inc., a pioneering company that launched small satellites.

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▪ American astronaut
born March 1, 1924, Sparta, Wis., U.S.
died June 13, 1993, League City, Texas
 American astronaut who was one of the original seven Project Mercury astronauts in 1959 but did not make a space flight until 1975.

      Slayton joined the U.S. air force in 1942 and flew 56 combat missions during World War II. After the war he earned a B.S. in aeronautical engineering (1949) from the University of Minnesota and then became an engineer with the Boeing Aircraft Company. In 1951 he was recalled to active duty with the Minnesota Air National Guard, and in 1955 he became a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California. After joining the Mercury astronaut program, Slayton was grounded because he was found to have an irregular heartbeat. He proved instrumental, however, as the director of flight crew operations at the Johnson Space Center, where he directed astronaut training and chose crews for nearly all the Gemini and Apollo missions.

      In 1975, after his heart ailment unaccountably disappeared, Slayton at age 51 was named docking module pilot for the Apollo-Soyuz mission (July 15–24, 1975; with Thomas P. Stafford and Vance D. Brand). After that flight was completed, Slayton served as manager of the orbital flight tests of the space shuttle until he retired in 1982. He then founded and directed Space Services, Inc., a pioneering company that launched small satellites.

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Universalium. 2010.

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