NASA’s photo of Robert Lee Curbeam on a spacewalk is iconic. The former astronaut logged over 900 hours in space and served on three International Space Station shuttle missions.
In the fall of 2018, Challenger Center, a science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education organization announced Curbeam as chair-elect of the board of directors. His role as Chair begins in August 2019.
The Challenger Center recognizes Curbeam as a passionate leader, encouraging the next generation to reach for the stars. Currently, he is vice president for the Space Systems Group, Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. He has held a wide range of positions with NASA, ARES Corporation, and Raytheon.
Curbeam joined the astronaut corps in 1994 after a distinguished career as a Navy pilot. Before retiring, he made seven spacewalks totaling over 45 hours.
A graduate of the Navy Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and Navy Test Pilot School, Curbeam logged more than 3,000 flight hours in 25 different aircraft and spacecraft.
He earned an advanced degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering and a Master of Science in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif. He received his bachelor’s degree with merit in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy.
During a 1997 mission, Curbeam was among the few people who directly observed devastating weather from space.
As Super Typhoon Winnie rolled into view, spanning 300-400 miles of the southern Pacific Ocean, his sense of wonder reportedly turned to dread.
“I remember thinking, ‘What must they be dealing with down there?’” Curbeam said.