Local former astronaut hopes to land space shuttle for museum
April 20, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah resident and former astronaut Bonnie Dunbar will step down as CEO of The Museum of Flight in July to focus on acquiring a decommissioned space shuttle for the Seattle museum.
NASA will retire the three orbiters by next year. Museums across the nation hope to net the shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour. The space agency has promised the shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian Institution.
Gov. Chris Gregoire and state legislators offered support — and $3 million — to help land a shuttle for Washington. The Museum of Flight plans to add exhibition space, called the Space Gallery, to house a shuttle.
“Thanks to the governor and Legislature, the state’s capital budget included $3 million for a Space Gallery to house the space shuttle and other space exploration artifacts,” Dunbar said in a news release. “It brings us to three-quarters of our goal which we expect to reach soon. In the meantime, we are hard at work on a design for the gallery.”
Dunbar will step down as CEO on July 1. Michael Hallman, a museum trustee and a former Boeing and Microsoft executive, has already started handling day-to-day operations for the museum.
“Obtaining one of the retired shuttles for the state of Washington and building a world-class Space Gallery is a top priority for the museum and time is running short,” board of trustees Chairman Kevin Callaghan said in the release. “We are in a good position to be successful but we need a strong push to the finish and Bonnie is the person to lead this effort.”
Dunbar will work with government, business, education and civic leaders statewide and across the nation to raise money and build support for a shuttle acquisition.
Museum trustees appointed Dunbar as president and CEO in late 2005. Before she accepted a role at the nonprofit museum, Dunbar worked in the aerospace industry for Boeing and Rockwell International. In the mid- and late-1990s, Dunbar flew five shuttle missions, including two missions to Mir, the former Russian space station.
Dunbar blasted into orbit aboard the shuttles Challenger, Columbia, Atlantis and Endeavour. Disasters claimed Challenger, Columbia and their crews.
The former astronaut oversaw the expansion of The Museum of Flight during her tenure, the acceptance of the facility as a Smithsonian affiliate and the recent re-accreditation of the museum by the American Association of Museums.
“Bonnie has served the museum with great focus, intelligence and energy in her five years as our leader,” Callaghan said in the release. “She has led us through difficult financial times and will leave the museum in a sound financial condition. We have been fortunate to have her as our leader for the past five years.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.