Astronaut Frank Culberson Departs NASA, Retiring to Pursue N

by Johnson Space Center

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Astronaut Frank L. Culbertson Jr. (Capt., USN, Ret.) ended his NASA career, retiring last week from the U.S. astronaut corps to pursue new opportunities in the private sector. An International Space Station commander, space shuttle commander and pilot, and NASA manager for the Phase I Shuttle-Mir Program, he departed NASA on Aug. 24.

A veteran of three spaceflights totaling 144 days in space, Culbertson returned in December 2001 from a four-month stay aboard the space station as the commander of Expedition Three. He was the sole American off the planet on Sept. 11 and saw the effects of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Before space station training, Culbertson was instrumental in the successful implementation of the Phase I program with Russia. He commanded the 1993 STS-51 shuttle mission and served as pilot for STS-38 in 1990. Before his selection to become an astronaut, Culbertson served as a Navy pilot and test pilot with over 6,500 hours flying time in more than 50 types of aircraft and three types of spacecraft.

"Frank has had an incredible career as a pilot, astronaut and NASA manager," said Charlie Precourt, chief of the Astronaut Office. "It takes a truly unique combination of technical and managerial skills to succeed in these fields, and Frank can do it all. We all wish him well in his new endeavors."

Capt. Culbertson said, "Flying in space became my childhood dream shortly after President Kennedy gave us the challenge to go to the moon. I have had the rare and fortunate opportunity of living this dream for 18 years and being a small part of our country's space history. I want to thank the hundreds of people in NASA, Russia, and our partner nations who have helped make that possible for me over the years. My prayers will be with them as they continue to make history and overcome the risks that enable great achievements. It has been an honor to work with such a talented and courageous international team."

For complete biographical information about Culbertson and other astronauts, visit the NASA Astronaut Biography page at