Astronaut Scholarship Foundation

Created By The Mercury 7 Astronauts

James Wetherbee


A veteran of six space flights, James Wetherbee was the first American to command five space missions. He piloted the STS-32 Columbia and was mission commander on STS-52 Columbia, STS-63 Discovery, STS-86 Atlantis, STS-102 Discovery, and STS-113 Endeavor.

Wetherbee was born November 27, 1952, in Flushing, New York and in 1974 received a bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

Selected by NASA in May 1984, Wetherbee became an astronaut in June 1985 and has since logged over 1,592 hours in space.

As pilot aboard STS-32 Columbia, Wetherbee assisted in the rendezvous and recovery of the 21,400-pound Long Duration Exposure Facility satellite, which was stranded in orbit for six years after the Challenger accident.

As commander of the STS-52 Columbia mission, Shepherd and the crew deployed the Laser Geodynamic Satellite. The STS-63 Discovery mission was the first American flight operation with the Russian Space Station Mir. Wetherbee’s next mission, STS-86 Atlantis, was the first flight to dock with the damaged Mir.

STS-102 Discovery was the first crew exchange mission to the permanently inhabited International Space Station, which was followed by the STS-113 Endeavour mission, the first combined crew exchange and major assembly mission to visit the International Space Station.

Wetherbee served as Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center (JSC) from August 1995 to April 2000, Director of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate from April 2000 – 2002, and Technical Assistant to the Director of JSC’s Safety & Mission Assurance Directorate from April 2003 to June 2004. Wetherbee left NASA in January 2005 to form Escape Trajectory LLC. In December 2006, he began working as a Safety Auditor with BP Global.

James Wetherbee was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame on May 2, 2009.