Michael L. Coats

Captain Michael L. Coats, USN (Ret.).
Captain Michael L. Coats, USN (Ret.)

Press releases about the event are posted on the Press page, and photos on the Photo Gallery. Banquet and speaker information are on the Agenda page.

The Rotary National Award for Space Achievement (RNASA) Foundation has selected former astronaut, Captain, USN (Ret.), and NASA Johnson Space Center Director Michael L. Coats to receive the 2012 National Space Trophy.

Coats is the tenth director of the NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. In this position, Coats provides management and administration of Agency resources, programs, and functions assigned to JSC, as well as leadership and institutional support to projects and research activities in support of NASA's strategic goals. He is responsible for a team of more than 3,200 civil servants, 198 government buildings located on more than 1,600 acres of property, and an annual budget in excess of $4.5 billion.

From Riverside, California, Coats graduated from Ramona High School in 1964. He received his Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland in 1968. He earned his pilot's wings in 1969 and subsequently flew 315 combat missions while serving aboard the USS Kitty Hawk in Southeast Asia.

He then served as a flight instructor with the A-7E Readiness Training Squadron in Lemoore, California from 1972 until he was selected to attend the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in Patuxent River, Maryland in December 1973. After serving as project officer and test pilot for the A-7 and A-4 aircraft at the Strike Aircraft Test Directorate, he became an instructor at Patuxent River from April 1976 to May 1977. Also in 1977, he earned a master's degree in science and technology from George Washington University. He left Maryland to attend the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, where he earned a master's in aeronautical engineering in 1979.

Space Flight Experience
After logging more than 5,000 hours in 28 different aircraft and completing 400 carrier landings, Coats was selected as an astronaut in 1978. Coats was a Capcom in Mission Control for STS-4 and 5 in 1982.

Coats piloted STS 41D, the maiden flight of Space Shuttle Discovery. Henry Hartsfield was commander and Judy Resnick, Steve Hawley, Richard Mullane, and Charlie Walker were his fellow crewmembers. This six-day flight launched August 30, 1984 and deployed three satellites (SBS-D, SYNCOM IV-2, and TELSTAR 3C), operated the Continuous Flow Electrophoresis experiment, tested a solar wing (OAST-1) for the future space station, and filmed an IMAX movie. The crew earned the nickname "Icebusters" for successfully using the robotic arm to remove ice from a vent.

In 1985, Coats was selected as the commander of STS 61-H. That mission was canceled following the Challenger accident in January 1986. Coats commanded STS-29 with John Blaha as pilot, and James Bagian, James Buchli, and Robert Springer as mission specialists. Discovery launched on March 13, 1989 and deployed a Tracking Data Relay Satellite. After this flight, Coats became the acting chief of the Astronaut Office and served in that role until March 1990.

His third and final Shuttle flight was the first unclassified DoD flight, STS-39, also aboard Discovery. After launch on April 28, 1991, the seven-man crew of L. Blaine Hammond, Guion Bluford, Greg Harbaugh, Richard Hieb, Donald McMonagle, and Charles Veach worked in two shifts on multiple experiments including the deployment, operation, and retrieval of the Shuttle Pallet Satellite (SPAS) II spacecraft. At the conclusion of this flight, Coats had logged 463 hours in space.

Professional Record
Following his third flight, Coats left NASA to pursue a career in private industry. From 1991 to 1996, he was vice president of Avionics and Communications Operations for Loral Space Information Systems. From 1996 to 1998, he served as vice president of Civil Space Programs for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Space in Sunnyvale, California. He moved to Denver, Colorado to become vice president of Advanced Space Transportation for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. He returned to Houston, Texas when he accepted the position of director of Johnson Space Center in November, 2005.

Awards & Recognition
In recognition of his many accomplishments, Coats was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2007. Other awards and honors include: Meritorious Executive Award (2009); NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1992); NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (1990); NASA Space Flight Medal (1991, 1989, 1984); Special Act or Service Award (1989); JSC Presidential Rank Award (2009); Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) (2008); FAI Gold Space Medal (2006); Defense Superior Service Medal; three Distinguished Flying Crosses; 32 Strike Flight Air Medals; three Individual Action Air Medals; and nine Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V. In April, 2012, he will be awarded the National Space Trophy.

Coats is married to the former Diane Eileen Carson of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. They have two grown children, a daughter and a son, and identical twin granddaughters.

Current as of January 2012

Read his biography as a Word document.

Read a more in-depth profile in the 2012 Program Book.

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