Purdue Space Day 2014 VIP Astronaut
National Aeronautics and
Charles D. Walker
Charlie Walker BSAAE’71; OAE’99 has worked in aerospace industry since 1977 most recently in the Boeing Company’s government relations office, Washington, D.C.
In the mid-1980s he flew aboard three NASA Space Shuttle missions as the first industry-sponsored engineer and researcher, becoming the first private astronaut in space. His activities as payload specialist astronaut on those missions included low-gravity purification of biomedical materials and research into protein crystal growth.
Mr. Walker has participated in NASA’s two largest space programs of the past few decades, the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station. He also made early contributions to the Constellation space exploration program to return mankind to the Moon and later to Mars. He has been involved in research, engineering design, development and operations planning, business development, marketing, and advocacy through industry, NASA and other government, academic and private organizations.
He previously worked for the U. S. Navy overseeing manufacturing systems design, the Bendix Aerospace Company designing missiles, and earlier with the U. S. Forest Service in engineering and as a forest firefighter.
Mr. Walker has served on the boards, and as an officer, of numerous not-for-profit and educational groups including the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, the Association of Space Explorers, the American Astronautical Society, the National Space Society, and the X-Prize Committee.
He has authored numerous book contributions, papers, columns and articles on space applications, commercialization, history and public advocacy. His diverse public activities include testimony before congressional committees, an appearance on The New Captain Kangaroo children’s television program, and various lectures.
Mr. Walker holds a degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University, and an honorary doctorate of science from the St. Louis College of Pharmacy. He is a professional engineer registered in California.
Mr. Walker is married to Susan Flowers Walker and they currently reside in Virginia. They have one daughter, one granddaughter, and one grandson.