Bonnie Jeanne Dunbar (born March 3, 1949) is a former NASA astronaut. She retired from NASA in September 2005 then served as president and CEO of The Museum of Flight until April 2010. From January 2013 - December 2015, Dr. Dunbar lead the University of Houston's STEM Center (science, technology, engineering and math) and was a faculty member in the Cullen College of Engineering. Currently, she is a professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University and serves as Director of the Institute for Engineering Education and Innovation (IEEI), a joint entity in the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES) and the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University.
Dunbar was born in Sunnyside, Washington. In 1967, she graduated from Sunnyside High School, Sunnyside, Washington. Following graduation in 1971 from the University of Washington, Dunbar worked for Boeing Computer Services for two years as a systems analyst. From 1973 to 1975, she conducted research for her master's thesis in the field of mechanisms and kinetics of ionic diffusion in sodium beta-alumina. She is a member of Kappa Delta sorority.
In 1975, she was invited to participate in research at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell near Oxford, England, as a visiting scientist. Her work there involved the wetting behavior of liquids on solid substrates. Following her work in England, she accepted a senior research engineer position with Rockwell International Space Division in Downey, California. Her responsibilities there included developing equipment and processes for the manufacture of the Space Shuttle thermal protection system in Palmdale, California. She also represented Rockwell International as a member of the Dr. Kraft Ehricke evaluation committee on prospective space industrialization concepts. Dunbar completed her doctorate at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. Her multi-disciplinary dissertation (materials science and physiology) involved evaluating the effects of simulated space flight on bone strength and fracture toughness. These results were correlated to alterations in hormonal and metabolic activity. Dr. Dunbar has served as an adjunct assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston.
Dunbar is a private pilot with over 200 hours in single engine land aircraft, has logged more than 700 hours flying time in T-38 jets as a back-seater, and has over 100 hours as co-pilot in a Cessna Citation jet. She was married to fellow astronaut Ronald M. Sega.
Dunbar accepted a position as a payload officer/flight controller at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1978. She served as a guidance and navigation officer/flight controller for the Skylab reentry mission in 1979 and was subsequently designated project officer/payload officer for the integration of several Space Shuttle payloads.
Dunbar became a NASA astronaut in August 1981. Her technical assignments have included assisting in the verification of Shuttle flight software at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), serving as a member of the Flight Crew Equipment Control Board, participation as a member of the Astronaut Office Science Support Group, supporting operational development of the remote manipulator system (RMS). She has served as chief of the Mission Development Branch, as the Astronaut Office interface for "secondary" payloads, and as lead for the Science Support Group. In 1993, Dr. Dunbar served as Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In February 1994, she traveled to Star City, Russia, where she spent 13-months training as a back-up crew member for a 3-month flight on the Russian Space Station, Mir. In March 1995, she was certified by the Russian Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center as qualified to fly on long duration Mir Space Station flights. From October 1995 to November 1996, she was detailed to the NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate as Assistant Director where she was responsible for chairing the International Space Station Training Readiness Reviews, and facilitating Russian/American operations and training strategies.
A veteran of five space flights, Dunbar has logged more than 1,208 hours (50 days) in space. She served as a mission specialist on STS-61-A in 1985, STS-32 in 1990, and STS-71 in 1995, and was the Payload Commander on STS-50 in 1992, and STS-89 in 1998.
STS-61-A Challenger (October 30-November 6, 1985), was the West German D-1 Spacelab mission. It was the first to carry eight crew members, the largest to fly in space, and was also the first in which payload activities were controlled from outside the United States. More than 75 scientific experiments were completed in the areas of physiological sciences, materials science, biology, and navigation. During the flight, Dunbar was responsible for operating Spacelab and its subsystems and performing a variety of experiments. Her mission training included six months of experiment training in Germany, France, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. STS-61-A launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and returned to land at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Mission duration was 7 days, 44 minutes 51 seconds, traveling 2.5 million miles in 111 orbits of the Earth.
STS-32 Columbia (January 9–20, 1990), launched from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, and returned to a night landing at Edwards Air Base in California. During the flight, the crew successfully deployed the Syncom IV-F5 satellite, and retrieved the 21,400-pound Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) using the RMS. They also operated a variety of middeck experiments including the Microgravity Disturbance Experiment (MDE) using the Fluids Experiment Apparatus (FEA), Protein Crystal Growth (PCG), American Flight Echocardiograph (AFE), Latitude/Longitude Locator (L3), Mesoscale Lightning Experiment (MLE), Characterization of Neurospora Circadian Rhythms (CNCR), and the IMAX Camera. Dunbar was principal investigator for the MDE/FEA Experiment. Additionally, numerous medical test objectives, including in-flight lower body negative pressure (LBNP), in-flight aerobic exercise and muscle performance were conducted to evaluate human adaptation to extended duration missions. Mission duration was 10 days, 21 hours, 01 minute, 38 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 173 orbits of the Earth.
STS-50 Columbia (June 25 to July 9, 1992). Dunbar was the Payload Commander on STS-50, the United States Microgravity Lab-1 mission which was dedicated to microgravity fluid physics and materials science. Over 30 experiments sponsored by over 100 investigators were housed in the Spacelab in the Shuttle's Payload Bay. A payload crew of four operated around-the-clock for 13 days performing experiments in scientific disciplines such as protein crystal growth, electronic and infrared detector crystal growth, surface tension physics, zeolite crystal growth, and human physiology. Mission duration was 13 days, 19 hours, 30 minutes and 4 seconds, traveling 5.7 million miles in 221 orbits of the Earth.
STS-71 Atlantis (June 27 to July 7, 1995), was the first Space Shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir, and involved an exchange of crews. The Atlantis was modified to carry a docking system compatible with the Russian Mir Space Station. Dunbar served as MS-3 on this flight which also carried a Spacelab module in the payload bay in which the crew performed medical evaluations on the returning Mir crew. These evaluations included ascertaining the effects of weightlessness on the cardio/vascular system, the bone/muscle system, the immune system, and the cardio/pulmonary system. Mission duration was 9 days, 19 hours, 23 minutes and 8 seconds, traveling 4.1 million miles in 153 orbits of the earth.
STS-89 Endeavour (January 22–31, 1998), was the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission during which the crew transferred more than 9,000 pounds of scientific equipment, logistical hardware and water from Space Shuttle Endeavour to Mir. In the fifth and last exchange of a U.S. astronaut, STS-89 delivered Andy Thomas to Mir and returned with David Wolf. Mission duration was 8 days, 19 hours and 47 seconds, traveling 3.6 million miles in 138 orbits of the Earth. Dunbar was the Payload Commander, responsible for all payload activities including the conduct of 23 technology and science experiments.
- 1971: B.S. Ceramic Engineering, University of Washington
- 1975: M.S. Ceramic Engineering, University of Washington
- 1983: Ph.D. Mechanical/Biomedical Engineering, University of Houston
- American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
- The American Ceramic Society (ACerS)
- National Institute of Ceramic Engineers (NICE)
- Keramos Honorary
- Society of Biomedical Engineering
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- Tau Beta Pi
- Materials Research Society (MRS)
- Board of Directors, Arnold Air Society and Angel Flight
- Board of Trustees Silver Wings (service organization) (SW)
- International Academy of Astronautics (IAF)
- Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA)
- Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
- Association of Space Explorers (ASE)
Awards and honors
- Honorary Doctorate from Heritage University in 2016
- Kappa Delta sorority
- Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 2000
- The American Ceramic Society (ACerS) James I. Mueller Award, Cocoa Beach, Florida (2000)
- Inducted into the Women in Technology International Hall of Fame (2000), one of five women in the world so honored annually
- Selected as one of the top 20 women in technology in Houston, Texas (2000)
- NASA Space Flight Medals (1985, 1990, 1992, 1995 and 1998)
- NASA Superior Accomplishment Award (1997)
- Member, National Science Foundation (NSF) Engineering Advisory Board, 1993–present
- NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal (1996)
- NASA Outstanding Leadership Award (1993)
- Fellow of American Ceramic Society (1993)
- Design News Engineering Achievement Award (1993)
- IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award (1993)
- Society of Women Engineers Resnik Challenger Medal (1993)
- Museum of Flight Pathfinder Award (1992)
- AAES National Engineering Award (1992)
- NASA Exceptional Service Award (1991)
- University of Houston Distinguished Engineering Alumna (1991)
- M.R.S. President's Award (1990)
- The American Ceramic Society (ACerS) Schwaltzwalder P.A.C.E. Award (1990)
- University of Washington Engineering Alumni Achievement (1989)
- NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1988)
- The American Ceramic Society (ACerS) Life Membership (1986)
- General Jimmy Doolittle Fellow of the Aerospace Education Foundation (1986)
- Evergreen Safety Council Public Service in Space Award (1986)
- The American Ceramic Society (ACerS) Greaves-Walker Award (1985)
- Rockwell International Engineer of the Year (1978)
- Graduated Cum Laude from the University of Washington in 1975