While assigned to Fighter Squadrons 111 and 1, during the period April 1972 to September 1975, he saw duty aboard the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43) and the USS Enterprise (CVAN-65) -- flying combat missions in Southeast Asia. He is a graduate of the Naval Fighter Weapons School, "Topgun." Gibson returned to the United States and an assignment as an F-14A instructor pilot with Fighter Squadron 124. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Patuxent River, Maryland, in June 1977, and later became involved in the test and evaluation of F-14A aircraft while assigned to the Naval Air Test Center's Strike Aircraft Test Directorate.
His flight experience includes over 6,000 hours in over 50 types of civil and military aircraft. He holds airline transport pilot, multi-engine, and instrument ratings, and has held a private pilot rating since age 17. Gibson has also completed over 300 carrier landings.
On his first space flight Gibson was the pilot on the crew of STS 41-B which launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on February 3, 1984. The flight accomplished the proper Shuttle deployment of two Hughes 376 communications satellites which failed to reach desired geosynchronous orbits due to upper stage rocket failures. Rendezvous sensors and computer programs were flight tested for the first time. The STS 41-B mission marked the first checkout of the Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU),and Manipulator Foot Restraint (MFR), with Bruce McCandless and Bob Stewart performing two spectacular EVA's (space walks). The German Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS), Remote Manipulator System (RMS), six "Getaway Specials," and materials processing experiments were included on the mission. The eight-day orbital flight of Challenger culminated in the first landing on the runway at the Kennedy Space Center on February 11, 1984, and Gibson logged 191 hours in space.
Gibson was the spacecraft commander of the STS 61-C mission. The seven-man crew on board the Orbiter Columbia launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on January 12, 1986. During the six-day flight the crew deployed the SATCOM KU satellite and conducted experiments in astrophysics and materials processing. The mission concluded with a successful night landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on January 18, 1986, and logged him an additional 146 hours in space.
Gibson subsequently participated in the investigation of the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, and also participated in the redesign and recertification of the solid rocket boosters.
As the spacecraft commander of STS-27, Gibson and his five-man crew launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on December 2, 1988, aboard the Orbiter Atlantis. The mission carried a Department of Defense payload, and a number of secondary payloads. After 68 orbits of the Earth the mission concluded with a dry lakebed landing on Runway 17 at Edwards Air Force Base, California, on December 6, 1988. Mission duration was 105 hours.
On Gibson's fourth space flight, the 50th Space Shuttle mission, he served as spacecraft commander of STS-47, Spacelab-J, which launched on September 12, 1992 aboard the Orbiter Endeavour. The mission was a cooperative venture between the United States and Japan, and included the first Japanese astronaut as a member of the seven-person crew. During the eight-day flight, the crew focused on life science and materials processing experiments in over forty investigations in the Spacelab laboratory, as well as scientific and engineering tests performed aboard the Orbiter Endeavour. The mission ended with a successful landing on the runway at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after 126 orbits of the Earth on September 20, 1992.
Most recently, (June 27 to July 7, 1995), Captain Gibson commanded a crew of seven-members (up) and eight-members (down) on Space Shuttle mission STS-71. This was the first Space Shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir, and involved an exchange of crews. The Atlantis Space Shuttle was modified to carry a docking system compatible with the Russian Mir Space Station. It also carried a Spacelab module in the payload bay in which the crew performed various life sciences experiments and data collections. Mission duration was 235 hours, 23 minutes.
In five space flights, Gibson has completed a total of 36-1/2 days in space.
Gibson left NASA in mid-November to pursue private business interests.
Manned five crew. Deployed Westar 6, Palapa B2; tested Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU). Payloads: PALAPA-B2 (Indonesian communications satellite) with Payload Assist Module (PAM)-D and WESTAR (Western Union communications satellite)-Vl with PAM-D. Both satellites were deployed but the PAM-D in each satellite failed to ignite, leaving both satellites in earth orbit. Both satellites were retrieved and returned to earth for renovation on the STS-51-A mission. The manned maneuvering unit (MMU) was tested with extravehicular astronauts as free flyers without tethers as far as 98 m from the orbiter. Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS)-01 experiments, Monodisperse Latex Reactor (MLR), Isoelectric Focusing Experiment (lEF), Acoustic Containerless Experiment System (ACES), Cinema 360 cameras, five getaway specials (GAS), Aerodynamic Coefficient Identification (ACIP)/High Resolution Accelerom-eter Package (HIRAP).
Manned seven crew. Launched Satcom K1. Payloads: Deploy SATCOM (RCA-Satellite Communi-cations) Ku-1 with Payload Assist Module (PAM)-D II. Materials Science Laboratory, Comet Halley Active Monitoring Experiment (CHAMP), Hitchhiker (HH) Goddard (G)-1, thirteen getaway specials (GAS), student experiment, Initial Blood Storage Equipment (lBSE), Characterization of Space Motion Sickness (SMS).
Manned five crew. Deployed a classified payload. Orbits of Earth: 68. Landed at: Runway 17 dry lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base, . Landing Speed: 359 kph. Touchdown miss distance: 447.00 m. Landing Rollout: 2,171.00 m. Payloads: DoD Mission.
Manned seven crew. Carried Spacelab-J with microgravity and biology experiments. Payloads: Spacelab-J, nine getaway special canister experiments, Israel Space Agency Investigation About Hornets (ISAIAH), Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX) II, Solid Surface Combus-tion Experiment (SSCE).
Mir Expedition EO-19. Transferred Budarin, Solovyov to Mir, returned Soyuz TM-21 crew to Earth. After undocking from Mir on July 4, Atlantis spent several days on orbit, carrying out medical research work with the Spacelab-Mir module in the cargo bay. Payloads: Shuttle/Mir Mission 1, Spacelab-Mir, IMAX camera, Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment (SAREX).