NAME: Donald K. (Deke) Slayton
BIRTHPLACE AND DATE: Slayton was born in Sparta, WI, on March 1, 1924.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Minnesota in 1949. Honorary degrees from Carthage College in Illinois and Michigan Technological University.
EXPERIENCE: Slayton joined the Air Force in 1942 and during World War II flew 56 combat missions in Europe as a B-25 pilot with the 340th Bombardment Group. Later he was assigned to the 319th Bombardment Group in Okinawa and flew seven combat missions over Japan. After the war he attended college and then became an aeronautical engineer with the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle. A member of the Minnesota Air National Guard, he was recalled to active duty in 1951 and served with Headquarters, Twelfth Air Force, and later with the 36th Fighter Day Wing in Germany. He remained in the Air Force and attended the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California, followed by an assignment there as an experimental test pilot.
Slayton was selected as one of the United States' seven original astronauts in 1959. He was assigned to fly the second Project Mercury orbital mission, but was grounded by an irregular heartbeat. He stayed with NASA to supervise the astronaut corps, first as Chief of the Astronaut Office and then as Director of Flight Crew Operations. In these positions he determined the crew assignments for all of the Gemini and Apollo missions. Slayton was finally restored to flight status in 1972 and finally made it into space on July 17, 1975 as a crew member on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project. Slayton, Tom Stafford, and Vance Brand manoeuvred their Apollo capsule to a docking with a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft carrying Alexei Leonov and Valery Kubasov. After 47 hours of joint experiments with the Soyuz, Apollo undocked and remained in orbit for a total of nine days, conducting other materials, biological, and earth photography experiments. This last flight of an Apollo spacecraft almost ended in disaster when toxic propellants leaked into the cabin during descent to the Pacific Ocean, harming the astronauts. For two years after the mission, Slayton was Manager of the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests at Edwards Air Force Base. From 1977 to 1982, Slayton was Manager for the first six Space Shuttle Orbital Flight Tests.
Slayton then retired from NASA and went into a series of space-related positions, finally as President of Space Services, Incorporated, which was developing the low cost Conestoga booster for launch of commercial space payloads. Slayton died in League City, Texas, from complications of a brain tumour, on June 13, 1993. Biography: Deke! by Michael Cassutt.
As a B-25 pilot with the 340th Bombardment Group, he flew 56 combat missions in Europe. He returned to the United States in mid-1944 as a B-25 instructor pilot at Columbia, South Carolina, and later served with a unit responsible for checking pilot proficiency in the A-26. In April 1945, he was sent to Okinawa with the 319th Bombardment Group and flew seven combat missions over Japan. He served as a B-25 instructor for one year following the end of the war and subsequently left the Air Force to enter the University of Minnesota. He became an aeronautical engineer after graduation and worked for two years with the Boeing Aircraft Corporation at Seattle, Washington, before being recalled to active duty in 1951 with the Minnesota Air National Guard.
Upon reporting for duty, he was assigned as maintenance flight test officer of an F-51 squadron located in Minneapolis, followed by 18-months as a technical inspector at Headquarters Twelfth Air Force, and a similar tour as fighter pilot and maintenance office with the 36th Fighter Day Wing at Bitburg, Germany. Returning to the United States in June 1955, he attended the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. He was a test pilot there from January 1956 until April 1959 and participated in the testing of fighter aircraft built for the United States Air Force and some foreign countries.
He has logged more than 6,600 hours flying time, including 5,100 hours in jet aircraft.
Slayton became Coordinator of Astronaut Activities in September 1962 and was responsible for the operation of the astronaut office. In November 1963, he resigned his commission as an Air Force Major to assume the role of Director of Flight Crew Operations. In this capacity, he was responsible for directing the activities of the astronaut office, the aircraft operations office, the flight crew integration division, the crew training and simulation division, and the crew procedures division. Slayton was restored to full flight status and certified eligible for manned space flights in March 1972, following a comprehensive review of his medical status by NASAís Director of Life Sciences and the Federal Aviation Agency.
Mr. Slayton made his first space flight as Apollo docking module pilot of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) mission, July 15-24, 1975óa joint space flight culminating in the first historical meeting in space between American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts. Completing the United States flight crew for this 9-day earth-orbital mission were Thomas P. Stafford (Apollo commander) and Vance D. Brand (Apollo command module Pilot). In the Soviet spacecraft were cosmonauts Alexey Leonov (Soyuz commander) and Valeriy Kubasov (Soyuz flight engineer). The crewmen of both nations participated in a rendezvous and subsequent docking, with Apollo the active spacecraft. The event marked the successful testing of a universal docking system and signaled a major advance in efforts to pave the way for the conduct of joint experiments and/or the exchange of mutual assistance in future international space explorations. There were 44 hours of docked joint activities during ASTP, highlighted by four crew transfers and the completion of a number of joint scientific experiments and engineering investigations. All major ASTP objectives were accomplished and included: testing a compatible rendezvous system in orbit; testing of androgynous docking assemblies; verifying techniques for crew transfers; and gaining experience in the conduct of joint international flights. Apollo splashed down in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii and was quickly recovered by the USS New Orleans. Slayton logged 217 hours and 28 minutes in his first space flight.
From December 1975 through November 1977, Slayton served as Manager for Approach and Landing Test Project. He directed the Space Shuttle approach and landing test project through a series of critical orbiter flight tests that allowed in-flight test and checkout of flight controls and orbiter subsystems and permitted extensive evaluations of the orbiterís subsonic flying qualities and performance characteristics.
He next served as Manager for Orbital Flight Test, directing orbital flight mission preparations and conducting mission operations. He was responsible for OFT operations scheduling, mission configuration control, preflight stack configuration control, as well as conducting planning reviews, mission readiness reviews, and postflight mission evaluations. He was also responsible for the 747/orbiter ferry program.
Slayton retired from NASA in 1982. He was president of Space Services Inc., of Houston, a company he founded to develop rockets for small commercial payloads.
Slayton would probably have flown the fourth manned suborbital Mercury. But after the Russians began orbiting cosmonauts, NASA cancelled further suborbital flights. The MR-6 mission was cancelled by NASA administrator James Webb at the beginning of July, 1961.
Astronaut Deke Slayton was to have been the second American in orbit. When Slayton was selected as an astronaut in 1959, it was known he had a minor heart fibrillation. This however did not prevent him from being an Air Force test pilot or being selected as an astronaut. But on January 23, 1962 John Glenn's wife refused to do a television appearance with Vice President Lyndon Johnson after a launch scrub of Glenn's mission. Soon thereafter rumours began in McNamara's Pentagon that Glenn had a secret heart condition. It was not Glenn, and his flight went as planned, but in the process Slayton's heart fibrillation came up. After a series of quick developments, Slayton was told he couldn't fly, and was forced to appear at a press conference making that announcement on March 16. The action was seen by many as a warning to the astronauts who was really in charge, although Slayton didn't think there was a direct cause and effect. Slayton's three orbit flight would have been called Delta 7. Instead Carpenter was selected for the mission, and Schirra, Slayton's backup, was moved to the Mercury 8 flight.
This flight marked the culmination of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, a post-moon race 'goodwill' flight to test a common docking system for space rescue. 15 July 1975 began with the flawless launch of Soyuz 19. Apollo followed right on schedule. Despite a stowaway - a 'super Florida mosquito' - the crew accomplished a series of rendezvous manoeuvres over the next day resulting in rendezvous with Soyuz 19. At 11:10 on 17 July the two spacecraft docked. The crew members rotated between the two spacecraft and conducted various mainly ceremonial activities. Stafford spent 7 hours, 10 minutes aboard Soyuz, Brand 6:30, and Slayton 1:35. Leonov was on the American side for 5 hours, 43 minutes, while Kubasov spent 4:57 in the command and docking modules.
After being docked for nearly 44 hours, Apollo and Soyuz parted for the first time and were station-keeping at a range of 50 meters. The Apollo crew placed its craft between Soyuz and the sun so that the diameter of the service module formed a disk which blocked out the sun. This artificial solar eclipse, as viewed from Soyuz, permitted photography of the solar corona. After this experiment Apollo moved towards Soyuz for the second docking.
Three hours later Apollo and Soyuz undocked for the second and final time. The spacecraft moved to a 40 m station-keeping distance so that the ultraviolet absorption (UVA MA-059) experiment could be performed. This was an effort to more precisely determine the quantities of atomic oxygen and atomic nitrogen existing at such altitudes. Apollo, flying out of plane around Soyuz, projected monochromatic laser-like beams of light to retro-reflectors mounted on Soyuz. On the 150-meter phase of the experiment, light from a Soyuz port led to a misalignment of the spectrometer, but on the 500-meter pass excellent data were received; on the 1,000-meter pass satisfactory results were also obtained.
With all the joint flight activities completed, the ships went on their separate ways. On 20 July the Apollo crew conducted earth observation, experiments in the multipurpose furnace (MA-010), extreme ultraviolet surveying (MA-083), crystal growth (MA-085), and helium glow (MA-088). On 21 July Soyuz 19 landed safely in Kazakhstan. Apollo continued in orbit on 22-23 July to conduct 23 independent experiments - including a doppler tracking experiment (MA-089) and geodynamics experiment (MA-128) designed to verify which of two techniques would be best suited for studying plate tectonics from earth orbit.
After donning their space suits, the crew vented the command module tunnel and jettisoned the docking module. The docking module would continue on its way until it re-entered the earth's atmosphere and burned up in August 1975. Apollo splashed down about 7,300 meters from the recovery ship New Orleans. However the flight of the last Apollo spacecraft was marred by the fact that the crew almost perished while the capsule was descending under its parachute.
A failure in switchology led the automatic landing sequence to be not armed at the same time the reaction control system was still active. When the Apollo hadn't begun the parachute deployment sequence by 7,000 metres altitude, Brand hit the manual switches for the apex cover and the drogues. The manual deployment of the drogue chutes caused the CM to sway, and the reaction control system thrusters worked vigorously to counteract that motion. When the crew finally armed the automatic ELS 30 seconds later, the thruster action terminated.
During that 30 seconds, the cabin was flooded with a mixture of toxic unignited propellants from the thrusters. Prior to drogue deployment, the cabin pressure relief valve had opened automatically, and in addition to drawing in fresh air it also brought in unwanted gases being expelled from the roll thrusters located about 0.6 meter from the relief valve. Brand manually deployed the main parachutes at about 2,700 meters despite the gas fumes in the cabin.
By the time of splashdown, the crew was nearly unconscious from the fumes, Stafford managed to get an oxygen mask over Brand's face. He then began to come around. When the command module was upright in the water, Stafford opened the vent valve, and with the in-rush of air the remaining fumes disappeared. The crew ended up with a two-week hospital stay in Honolulu. For Slayton, it also meant the discovery of a small lesion on his left lung and an exploratory operation that indicated it was a non-malignant tumour.