George Driver "Pinky" Nelson, born Template:Birth date and age, is an American physicist, astronomer, science educator, and a former NASA astronaut.

Early life and educationEdit

Nelson was born born July 13, 1950 in Charles City, Iowa, but considers Willmar, Minnesota, to be his hometown. Pinky enjoys playing golf, reading, swimming, running, and music. He graduated from Willmar Senior High School, Willmar, Minnesota, in 1968. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physics from Harvey Mudd College in 1972, and a Master of Science and a Doctor of Philosophy degrees in Astronomy from the University of Washington in 1974 and 1978, respectively.

Nelson was a Boy Scout and earned the rank of First Class Scout.[2]

His wife, Susie, is from Alhambra, California. They have two daughters, Aimee Tess (born April 25, 1972) and Marti Ann (born February 27, 1975).


Dr. Nelson performed astronomical research at the Sacramento Peak Solar Observatory, Sunspot, New Mexico; the Astronomical Institute at Utrecht (Utrecht, Netherlands) and the University of Göttingen Observatory, (Göttingen, West Germany), and at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics (Boulder, Colorado). His current research is in systemic education reform and the preparation of science teachers.

NASA careerEdit

George was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in January 1978. He flew as a scientific equipment operator in the WB 57-F earth resources aircraft and served as the Astronaut Office representative in the Space Shuttle Extravehicular Mobility Unit (space suit) development effort. During STS-1 he was the photographer in the prime chase plane. He also served as support crewman and CAPCOM for the last two OFT flights, STS-3 and STS-4, and as head of the Astronaut Office Mission Development Group. A veteran of three space flights, Nelson served aboard STS-41-C in 1984, STS-61C in 1986 and STS-26 in 1988. He has logged a total of 411 hours in space, including 10 hours of EVA flight time.

Spaceflight experienceEdit

STS-41-C ChallengerEdit

Main article: STS-41-C
STS-41-C crew

Nelson (2nd from right) with STS-41-C crewmates

This was a seven-day (April 6–13, 1984) mission during which the crew successfully deployed the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), retrieved the ailing Solar Maximum satellite, repaired it on board the Orbiter, and replaced it in orbit. The mission also included flight testing of Manned Maneuvering Units (MMUs) in two extravehicular activities (EVAs), and operation of the Cinema 360 and IMAX Camera Systems.

STS-61-C ColumbiaEdit

Main article: STS-61-C

This mission, from January 12–18, 1986, launched from the Kennedy Space Center and returned to a night landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California. During the six-day flight, the crew deployed the SATCOM KU satellite and conducted experiments in astrophysics and materials processing.

STS-26 DiscoveryEdit

Main article: STS-26

This mission (September 29–October 3, 1988) was the first flown after the Challenger accident. During the four-day flight, the crew successfully deployed the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS-C) and operated eleven mid-deck science experiments.

Post-NASA careerEdit

Nelson left NASA in 1989, became an assistant provost at the University of Washington,[3] and now directs the Science, Mathematics and Technology Education program at Western Washington University in Bellingham. He is also the principal investigator of the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership, a mathematics and science partnership grant from the National Science foundation.

Special honorsEdit

SMMS repair by STS-41C Astronauts

Astronauts Van Hoften and Nelson (right) during their EVA

NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, 3 NASA Space Flight Medals, AIAA Haley Space Flight Award, Fédération Aéronautique Internationale V. M. Komarov Diploma, Western Washington University Faculty Outstanding Service Award. In 2009, Nelson was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.[4] Elected member of Washington State Academy of Science, Elected Fellow American Association for the Advancement of Science

Physical descriptionEdit

  • Weight: 170 lb (77 kg)
  • Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.76 m)
  • Hair: Blond
  • Eyes: Blue[5]

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit

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