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  What made Brian O'Leary an ex-astronaut?

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Author Topic:   What made Brian O'Leary an ex-astronaut?

Posts: 1047
From: Messina, Sicilia, Italia
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 04-03-2005 07:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for carmelo   Click Here to Email carmelo     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Brian O Leary was a member of the astronaut-scientist group selected in 1967. He resigned seven months later "in disgust" over what he found to be a "program pervaded by viewpoint and ambitions of test pilots, indifferent to the goals of science." For him, Houston was a far cry from the civilized pleasures of Berkeley but also isolated from "the mainstream of scientific work essential to my professional life."

From his biography on the web: "Resigned from active duty for problems in flight training."

So, which is the true story?

Gordon Reade

Posts: 334
From: USA
Registered: Nov 2002

posted 04-03-2005 09:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The truth is he couldn't handle a Cessna 172.

Gordon Reade

Posts: 334
From: USA
Registered: Nov 2002

posted 04-03-2005 09:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I defy anyone to read Brian O Leary's autobiography and say that he was anything other than an egotistical spoiled kid. He felt that he didn't need to prove himself to NASA since he had already proved himself in grad school. He felt that science couldn't be done by anyone who didn't have a Ph.D. He felt that he was smarter and better than the men who had already flown in space.

The bottom line is the NASA Brian O'Leary joined was the exact same NASA that Story Musgrave joined. They were members of the same group. Story repaired the Hubble Space Telescope. What has Brian done?


Posts: 2610
From: Brussels, Belgium
Registered: Dec 2000

posted 04-04-2005 07:34 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for eurospace   Click Here to Email eurospace     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Gordon is right in one thing: O'Leary joined the same NASA that took 16 years to offer a Story Musgrave a flight opportunity, in the same way they wasted the lifetime of Bill Thornton, Karl Henize and others who were recruited the time and had to wait almost two decades to do what they were hired for.

NASA at the time simply didn't understood what research and science in space was about. They even almost missed the opportunity to fly a scientist to the Moon.

In other words: I feel the description O'Leary gives of the NASA of the time is probably a pretty adequate one. O'Leary et. al. simply joined NASA a decade too early. This was a NASA that went to the Moon and then didn't really know what to do there. Why go to the Moon again? We've already been there.

And Story Musgrave's merits are Hubble repair? A guy bored enough at NASA to produce six academic degrees and then does a work of a car mechanic? What would you think of a car mechanic having six degrees? Slightly overqualified, if you ask me. Not to undo of his achievements, but isn't the work that hundreds of scientists do working with NASA endlessly more valuable?

The lines O'Leary followed in later years, of course, escape me entirely...

Gordon Reade

Posts: 334
From: USA
Registered: Nov 2002

posted 04-04-2005 09:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Gordon Reade     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Are you saying that repairing Hubble was no different than a tune up and oil change at the corner service station? If so you grossly underestimate what was accomplished.

O'Leary was 27 when he was hired to be an astronaut by NASA in 1967. Just imagine, his career could have lasted more then 30 years. Think of all the contributions he could have made even if he had to wait 16 years to fly. Come to think of it that's how long Deke had to wait and look what Deke did.

Do you remember the part in his autobiography where he is playing the piano at a bar and he is asked what he does for a living and he says "Astronaut." How many people could say that?

If I had been his age in 1967 and I got that phone call from Shepard saying come work for us I'd be as happy as a clam.


Posts: 1217
From: Huntsville, AL, USA
Registered: Jun 2003

posted 04-04-2005 09:24 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for DavidH   Click Here to Email DavidH     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm curious whether, for example, Bill Thornton, with huge contributions to biomedical microgravity research during his first years at NASA would consider his lifetime "wasted" simply because he wasn't flying in space during that time.

Without doubt, NASA was not able to make full use of Group 6 when they were brought into the corps, but I don't think that's any reason to denigrate the achievements of those individuals, Juergen.

Further, I can't imagine that O'Leary's role in the astronaut corps would have been much different if a flight assignment had been more quickly forthcoming. Gordon's summary of "Ex-Astronaut" is dead on. O'Leary had no interest in being a team player.


Posts: 2732
From: Stuart, Florida
Registered: Jun 2000

posted 04-04-2005 09:45 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for albatron   Click Here to Email albatron     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Even in his bio he relates how the T-38 scared him to death. I think you can safely read that if flying in the back seat of a T-38 is that unsettling, imagine what a launch would be.

Now if these posts and assertations can be made without the arrogance, the discussion can be quite enlightening.

Matt T

Posts: 1368
From: Chester, Cheshire, UK
Registered: May 2001

posted 04-04-2005 10:47 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Matt T   Click Here to Email Matt T     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
History is written by the winners. They were the guys who flew to the moon, so their stuff MUST be the 'Right Stuff' right? It's a self fulfilling prophecy.

I like O'Leary's book precisely because he wasn't a steely eyed fighter jock. His criticisms of what he saw are all the more valuable for being in the minority. If we only buy into the winner's point of view we're distorting the truth of the past to suit our own tastes. And at the very least we're afforded an in depth look at the classroom stage of the training (something usually afforded a page at most in other astro-bios).


Posts: 1309
From: Denver, CO
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 07-26-2006 05:28 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was looking at the JSC astronaut biographies site, and I'm wondering why O'Leary is the only former astronaut without a page there. Is it because he left the agency on less-than-friendly terms, or trashed it in his book? (I've never read "The Making of an Ex-Astronaut.") Was this an agency decision, or does he simply not want his biography linked there?

Anyone who knows if there's a story here, I'm curious...


Posts: 1042
From: UK
Registered: Apr 2005

posted 07-31-2006 06:19 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Still unsure why O'Leary has been shunned by the US space infrastructure.

Then again NASA is an integral part of the US government, so perhaps this plays a factor in his ostracizing.

Of course he didn't do himself any favours by appearing in FOX TVs ridiculous programme questioning the authenticity of the Apollo moon landings. Although, I do query FOX's editing of that awful show. Perhaps O'Leary's remarks were taken out of context to suit the production's agenda.

Nevertheless, the question remains if he was such a poor candidate to begin with, why did NASA ever select him?

John Charles

Posts: 339
From: Houston, Texas, USA
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 07-31-2006 07:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for John Charles     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Originally posted by GoesTo11:
I've never read "The Making of an Ex-Astronaut...
Whether you like O'Leary or not, if you want to understand the NASA culture (healthy or otherwise), then I strongly recommend reading the book to get a flavor of the NASA that was striding towards the moon in 1967, which bore a strong resemblance to the NASA of 1983 when I got to JSC.

I read it in 1969 or so, as a 15-year-old space fanatic, and it rocked me back on my heels. I identified strongly with O'Leary because I wanted to be a space scientist (and even a scientist-astronaut), but his description of NASA gave me serious pause. I recovered and pushed onward, and when I ended up here, guess what? His description was more accurate than I dreamed!


Posts: 1309
From: Denver, CO
Registered: Jun 2004

posted 08-01-2006 05:39 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for GoesTo11   Click Here to Email GoesTo11     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Thanks for the recommendation... I'll try and track down a copy of the book. I have no firm opinion of Dr. O'Leary, but I'm always interested in different perspectives on the culture and the organizational function (or dysfunction) of NASA.

I also wasn't aware that O'Leary appeared on the infamous FOX moon-hoax "documentary"... I never saw it, but I heard about it. Just this past weekend there was a segment on a Discovery Channel show that debunked several common moon-hoax memes. They did a good job, but I guess my mind just boggles (and admittedly my mind is easily boggled) that such drivel still needs refuting. It's like the "9-11 truth" wackos... What is it about us that makes outlandish conspiracy theories so durable in the popular imagination?

All times are CT (US)

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