George W.S. Abbey gave distinguished service in a federal service career that spanned a half-century, joining NASA in 1964 as an Air Force Captain and ending as Director of the Johnson Space Centre responsible for all Space Shuttle flights. His many awards include the Medal of Freedom, the USA's highest civilian award, for his role on the Apollo 13 Mission Operations Team.
In February 2001, Abbey became the Senior Assistant for International Issues reporting to the NASA administrator. Subsequent, he was appointed as a Senior Visiting Fellow at the James Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. He is also working with the University of Texas El Paso to enhance the University's engineering and science programs and encourage young students to pursue careers in science and engineering. "George helped to shape some of NASA's most difficult programs and missions as a true innovator and pioneer," said Administrator Sean O'Keefe. "Throughout his eminent career, George distinguished both himself and the agency. He leaves behind a legacy of excellence and dedication that the hardworking people of NASA will follow for years to come."
Abbey joined NASA in 1964, as an Air Force Captain assigned to the Apollo Program. In December 1967 he left the Air Force and was named technical assistant to the JSC Center Director. In January 1976, he was named Director of Flight Operations, where he was responsible for operational planning and for the overall direction and management of flight crew and flight control activities for all human space flight missions.
In 1983, he became Director of Flight Crew Operations Directorate, where he continued to be responsible for all Space Shuttle flight crews and center aircraft operations.
Abbey was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Flight at NASA Headquarters in Washington in March 1988. In July 1990, he was selected as Deputy for Operations and senior NASA representative to the Synthesis Group, chaired by former Apollo astronaut Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, USAF (ret.), and charged with defining strategies for returning to the Moon and landing on Mars.
In July 1991, Abbey was appointed Senior Director for Civil Space Policy for the National Space Council in the Executive Office of the President, and in 1992 he was named as Special Assistant to the NASA Administrator. Abbey was named Deputy Director of JSC in 1994 and was selected as the JSC Center Director in 1996.
Born in Seattle on August 21, 1932, Abbey received his bachelor's degree in general science from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md., in 1954, and a master's degree in electrical engineering from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in 1959. A pilot in the U.S. Air Force, Abbey had more than 4,000 hours in various types of aircraft before being detailed to NASA. This year, 2002, he was selected as a Distinguished Alumnus of the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology.
Abbey's numerous honors and awards include the NASA Exceptional Service Medal, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, three NASA Distinguished Service Medals and the 1970 Medal of Freedom, which was presented by President Richard M. Nixon, for his distinguished civilian service in peacetime. He was the recipient of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement in 1997.
"George is a demanding leader who rarely accepts compromise," added Administrator O'Keefe. "His ability to motivate and inspire his staff to work harder and smarter helped NASA write much of its human space flight history. His devotion to the success of America's space program is unquestionable and I wish him the best."