Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson logged more than 36 days in space during five shuttle missions! Born in Cooperstown, New York, in 1946, he considers Lakewood, California his hometown. After graduation from California Polytechnic University with a degree in aeronautical engineering, Gibson joined the U.S. Navy in 1969. Already a private pilot since age 17, he received primary and basic flight training at naval air stations in Florida and Mississippi, then completed advanced flight training at the NAS Kingsville, Texas. In 1972, he served his first tour in Southeast Asia flying McDonnell F-4 Phantom IIs from the USS Coral Sea (CVA-43). He returned to Southeast Asia in 1974 flying Grumman F-14 Tomcats providing air cover during the US evacuation of Saigon.
A graduate of the Naval Fighter Weapons School, “Topgun, ” Gibson later became a Grumman F-14 Tomcat instructor pilot in Fighter Squadron 124. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1977 and remained at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, to conduct F-14 test and evaluation. While at Patuxent River, he applied for astronaut training and was selected by NASA in 1978. He completed training and evaluation as a qualified shuttle pilot in 1979 and then worked in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory and as a chase pilot. His first spaceflight was as pilot of Challenger on STS-41B in February 1984.
The highlight of the mission was the first check out of the Manned Maneuvering Unit during two spectacular “space walks.” The mission culminated in the first shuttle landing at Kennedy Space Center. Next, in January 1986, Gibson commanded Columbia on STS-61C, a 6-day flight that included the deployment of a communications satellite. Bad weather at Kennedy Space Center resulted in an extension of the mission and a night landing at Edwards AFB, California. After the Challenger accident, he worked on the investigation team and helped redesign the solid rocket boosters. On his third trip into orbit, in December 1988, Gibson commanded Atlantis on STS-27, a classified mission for the military.
Returning to space in 1992, Gibson commanded Endeavor on the 50th space shuttle mission, STS-47. This cooperative venture focused on more than 40 life science and materials processing experiments aboard a Japanese designed spacelab. In 1995, Gibson commanded Atlantis on STS-71, the first space shuttle mission to dock with the Russian Space Station Mir. It was his fifth and final mission. He is the only astronaut to serve as mission commander on four different shuttles. He enjoys home-built aircraft, formula one air racing, running, and surfing during his free time.