Ron D. Dittemore spent most of his career working to put men and women into outer space. He was a shuttle program manager for NASA and then president of ATK Launch Systems Group. He is now retired.
Dittemore was born on April 13, 1952, in Cooperstown, New York. He grew up in Washington State. He remembers being interested in space flight since he was a child. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from the University of Washington.
His first engineering job was with the Airsearch Manufacturing Company in Arizona in 1976. A year later he was hired at the Johnson Space Center as a shuttle propulsion systems engineer. In 1985, he was named a shuttle flight director and oversaw critical aspects of at least nine spaceflights until 1992. He was named deputy manager in 1993. In 1997 he became responsible for certification and operation of shuttle vehicles and 1999 he became responsible for the overall management of the space shuttle program.
He was thrust into the world’s spotlight on February 1, 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas as it reentered Earth’s atmosphere. All seven crewmembers were killed. A few months before the disaster, Dittemore had planned to retire from NASA, but stayed on after to support the investigation and oversee return-to-flight activities. He is credited with relaying complex, technical thoughts in a way the media could handle, answering questions carefully and candidly, and helping NASA survive the investigation that followed.
Dittemore joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when he was 23. He and his wife, Shirley, have two children. They lived in Texas and now live in Arizona.