Leestma, David C. (1949-) | Purdue University Libraries, Archives and Special Collections
David C. Leestma was born May 6, 1949, in Muskegon, Michigan to Dr. and Mrs. Harold F. Leestma. He graduated from Tustin High School, Tustin, California, in 1967; received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy in 1971, and a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1972.
Leestma graduated first in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1971. As a first lieutenant, he was assigned to USS Hepburn (DE-1055) in Long Beach, California, before reporting in January 1972 to the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. He completed flight training and received his wings in October 1973. He was assigned to VF-124 in San Diego, California, for initial flight training in the F-14A Tomcat and then transferred to VF-32 in June 1974 and was stationed at Virginia Beach, Virginia. Leestma made three overseas deployments to the Mediterranean/North Atlantic areas while flying aboard the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). In 1977, he was reassigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four (VX-4) at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California. As an operational test director with the F-14A, he conducted the first operational testing of new tactical software for the F-14 and completed the follow-on test and evaluation of new F-14A avionics, including the programmable signal processor. He also served as fleet model manager for the F-14A tactical manual. He has logged more than 3,500 hours of flight time, including nearly 1,500 hours in the F-14A.
Leestma was selected to become an astronaut in 1980. His space flight experience included STS-41G launched October 5, 1984, STS-28 Launched August 8, 1989, and STS-45 launched on March 24, 1992. Leestma also he served as a Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for STS-51C through STS-61A. He was then assigned as the Chief, Mission Development Branch responsible for assessing the operational integration requirements of payloads that will fly aboard the shuttle. From February 1990 to September 1991, when he started training for his third space mission, Leestma served as Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations. Following this flight, he served as Deputy Chief and acting Chief of the Astronaut Office. Leestma was selected as the Director, Flight Crew Operations Directorate (FCOD) in November 1992. As Director, FCOD, he had overall responsibility for the Astronaut Office and for Johnson Space Center (JSC) Aircraft Operations. During his tenure as Director, 41 shuttle flights and seven Mir missions were successfully flown. He was responsible for the selection of Astronaut Groups 15, 16 and 17. While Director, he oversaw the requirements, development modifications of the T-38A transition to the T-38N avionics upgrades. In September 1998, Leestma was reassigned as the Deputy Director, Engineering, in charge of the management of JSC Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) Projects.
In August 2001, he was assigned as the Johnson Space Center Project Manager for the Space Launch Initiative, responsible for all JSC work related to the development of the new launch system. Leestma also served as the Assistant Program Manager for the Orbital Space Plane, responsible for the vehicle systems and operations of a new crewed vehicle that served as the transfer vehicle for space flight crews to and from the International Space Station. He then served as the Manager, JSC Exploration Programs Office, responsible for JSC's role in the future exploration programs that were to fulfill the President's vision for exploration. Leestma then took charge of the JSC Advanced Planning Office, which helped to plan JSC's strategy to be fully ready for the challenges of the future, including leading the human missions to the moon and Mars. His latest assignment was to lead JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, providing the opportunity for NASA developed technologies to move into the commercial arena.
A veteran of three space flights, Leestma logged a total of 532.7 hours in space. He served as a mission specialist on STS-41G (October 5-13, 1984), STS-28 (August 8-13, 1989), and STS-45 (March 24 to April 2, 1992).
Leestma retired from NASA on May 30, 2014.