Kathryn D. Sullivan

Potomac Institute for Policy Studies
Astronaut; Government research scientist
Leadership, Policy, and Communications
Public Affairs and Public Policy

Kathryn D. Sullivan is an American oceanographer and astronaut and the first American woman to walk in space. Sullivan received a bachelor’s degree in Earth sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a doctorate in geology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S., Canada. She was selected as an astronaut by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1978. Her first spaceflight was aboard the space shuttle Challenger on the STS-41G mission. Sullivan became the first American woman to walk in space when she and fellow mission specialist David Leetsma performed a 3.5-hour space walk in which they operated a system designed to show that satellites could be refueled in orbit. Sullivan flew on two more spaceflights. On STS-31, the space shuttle Discovery deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. On STS-45, Sullivan was the payload commander of the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science, a laboratory on a pallet housed in the space shuttle Atlantis’s cargo bay that contained 12 experiments studying Earth’s atmosphere. Sullivan left NASA in 1993 and became chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In 1996 she was named president and chief executive officer of the Center of Science and Industry, a science museum in Columbus, Ohio. In 2006 Sullivan became the director of the Battelle Center for Mathematics and Science Education Policy at Ohio State University in Columbus.  President Barack Obama appointed her assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction and deputy administrator of NOAA in 2011. In 2014 he appointed her Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA administrator.   Following the completion of her service at NOAA, she was designated as the 2017 Charles A. Lindbergh Chair of Aerospace History at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and Astronaut Hall of Fame. She is currently a Senior Fellow at the Potomac Institute and the Ambassador at Large for the National Air and Space Museum. Her memoir, Handprints on Hubble: An Astronaut's Story of Invention was published in 2019.  

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