Don Lind: Mormon Astronaut
Don Leslie Lind is a space physicist and former NASA astronaut. He was also a professor of physics and astronomy.
Lind was born on May 18, 1930, in Midvale, Utah. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from the University of Utah. He attended the United States Navy Officer Candidate School where he became a naval aviator. He served four years on active duty in San Diego and aboard the carrier USS Hancock. He received his Wings of Gold in 1957. He held the rank of Commander in the Naval Reserve. He logged more than 4500 hours as a pilot, primarily in high-performance jet aircraft.
Because of his naval assignment to take high-altitude photo emulsions of cosmic rays for the University of California at Berkeley, he was accepted at the university for graduate studies and earned his PhD in high-energy nuclear physics in 1964. He later did postdoctoral study at the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska.
Lind worked at the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley doing research in pion-nucleon scattering. Beginning in 1964, Lind worked as a space physicist for NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center. His work included experiments to determine the properties of particles in the earth’s magnetosphere and in interplanetary space.
In 1966, Lind was selected as an astronaut. He played a major role in developing the equipment and procedures used on the Apollo missions to the moon. He served as the backup science pilot for the Skylab 3 and Skylab 4 missions and as a member of the rescue crew for all of the Skylab missions. He waited nineteen years for his first spaceflight aboard the space shuttle Challenger on the Spacelab 3 mission (STS-51-B, the first operational Spacelab mission), where he served as payload commander. Leaving from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 29, 1985, he completed 110 orbits of the earth and traveled just shy of three million miles. The shuttle landed at Edwards Air Force Base in California on May 6, 1985. One of the mission’s experiments was developed by Lind—to take unique three-dimensional video recordings of the earth’s aurora. The crew also investigated crystal growth, drop dynamics leading to containerless material processing, atmospheric trace gas spectroscopy, solar and planetary atmospheric simulation, cosmic rays, laboratory animals and human medical monitoring.
He also conducted an experiment aboard the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) satellite, called the Interstellar Gas Experiment. Collectors in this experiment entrapped one of the first samples of matter from outside the solar system, particles of the interstellar medium moving between the stars.
He was awarded the NASA Space Flight Medal and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. At the end of his twenty-two-year career with NASA, he joined the faculty of Utah State University in 1986, where he taught physics and astrophysics. He retired in 1995.
Lind is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served as a missionary in New England. After his flight into space, he spoke in General Conference about his experience. He has served as a counselor in two mission presidencies and a counselor in the Portland Oregon Temple presidency. He and his wife, Kathleen, are the parents of seven children.