Don Leslie Lind, Ph.D. (born May 18, 1930), (Cmdr, USNR, Ret.), is an American scientist and a former naval officer and aviator, and NASA astronaut. He graduated from the University of Utah with an undergraduate degree in physics in 1953. Following his military service obligation, he earned a Ph.D. in high-energy nuclear physics from the University of California, Berkeley in 1964.
Lind was a naval aviator and attained the rank of Commander in the United States Naval Reserve. He had active duty in San Diego and aboard the carrier USS Hancock.
After completing his doctorate, Lind worked at NASA's Goddard Research Center from 1964 to 1966. During this period, he applied for the third group of astronauts but did not have enough flight hours. He applied for the fourth group, but was denied for being too old. The age restriction was raised for the fifth group, and he was selected with the Original Nineteen in 1966. Lind helped to develop the Apollo 11 EVA activities, and served as CAPCOM for the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. He was then assigned as backup Pilot for Skylab 3 and Skylab 4 and nearly flew on the proposed Skylab Rescue mission.
Lind was the Payload Commander on his only flight, STS-51-B, launched April 29, 1985. He designed an experiment to capture the Earth's aurora. The payload experiments consisted primarily of microgravity research and atmospheric measurement. The Orbiter Challenger completed 110 orbits before landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California .
Lind was born May 18, 1930. He attended Midvale Elementary School and graduated from Jordan High School. He was an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America. He received a Bachelor of Science degree with high honors in physics from the University of Utah in 1953.
As a Naval Aviator, Lind volunteered to take high-altitude photo emulsions of cosmic rays for the University of California, Berkeley during flights. This helped him enroll at Berkeley, where Lind researched pion-nucleon scattering in the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory and earned a Ph.D. in high-energy nuclear physics in 1964. During a leave of absence from NASA, he conducted postdoctoral research at the University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute from 1975 to 1976.
Lind enrolled at the United States Navy Officer Candidate School after completing his undergraduate education. Although he jokingly requested flight training, he was unable to change his assignment and found that he enjoyed flying. He received his Wings of Gold in 1955 and served four years on active duty with the Navy at San Diego and later aboard the carrier USS Hancock. He ultimately logged more than 4,500 hours of flight time during his naval and NASA careers, 4,000 of which were in jet aircraft. Lind continued to serve in the United States Naval Reserve after completing his service obligation and attained his terminal rank of Commander in 1969.
From 1964 to 1966, Lind worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center as a space physicist. He was involved in experiments to determine the nature and properties of low-energy particles within the Earth's magnetosphere and interplanetary space. Lind applied for NASA's third group of astronauts but did not have enough flight hours, and was too old for the fourth group. After the age restriction changed, he was among the fifth group, the "Original Nineteen," selected in April 1966.
Although the "Original Nineteen" was an all-pilot cohort (in contrast to the fourth and sixth groups, which were limited to medical doctors and Ph.D. scientists without past aerospace experience), Lind and Group 5 colleague Bruce McCandless II were "effectively treated... as scientist-astronauts" by NASA due to their academic training and mutual lack of the test pilot experience highly privileged by Deke Slayton and other NASA managers at the time; this would ultimately delay their progression in the flight rotation.
Along with geologist-astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Lind helped to develop and demonstrate the flight plan for the Apollo 11 EVA (including the Apollo Lunar Surface Experiments Packages that would continue to relay data following the missions) and other tools used on the lunar surface. He also served as a capsule communicator on the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 missions. Schmitt, Owen Garriott and Lind were the only scientist-astronauts to receive advanced helicopter training, a key prerequisite for piloting the Apollo Lunar Module. Due to standard crew rotations, it is believed that Lind would have followed Schmitt as the second scientist-astronaut Lunar Module Pilot on one of the canceled Apollo missions or projected long-range Apollo Applications Program lunar survey missions.
Amid the gradual cancellation of the later Apollo missions and the devolution of the AAP into Project Skylab, Lind was formally reassigned to the latter program in August 1969; according to Slayton, who noted Lind's disappointment, "with the cancellation of [Apollo] 20, I could see I just wasn't going to have a flight for him." Together, Lind and Group 6 scientist-astronaut William B. Lenoir comprised the Earth Resources Group of the Skylab Branch Office.
Lind, on his role as backup Pilot for Skylab 3 and 4.
Lind served as backup Pilot alongside backup Commander Vance D. Brand and backup Science Pilot Lenoir for Skylab 3 and Skylab 4, the second and third manned Skylab missions; was on standby for a rescue mission planned when malfunctions developed in Skylab 3's Apollo Command/Service Module (ultimately thwarted due to Brand and Lind's resourcefulness in devising a solution in the simulators) and the proposed 20-day Skylab 5 mission (scrapped in favor of the more economical extension of Skylab 4 from 56 to 84 days); and may have flown as a Pilot or Science Pilot on Skylab B.
According to David Shayler, Lind "could never understand why he was not on the [Skylab 4] crew as [S]cience [P]ilot" due to his work on the mission's Earth resources package; this could likely be attributed to seniority and specialization, as all of the Science Pilots were drawn from Group 4. Additionally, Skylab 4 Science Pilot Edward Gibson (like Lind, an atmospheric physicist) had taken on a research program in solar physics and worked on the Apollo Telescope Mount while Lind was still on track to be assigned to a lunar mission. Although he cross-trained with Lenoir and briefly proposed swapping positions with his crewmate, he elected to retain his original assignment due to the greater likelihood of the rescue mission (which could only accommodate the Commander and Pilot) amid the space program's dwindling flight opportunities.
When the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum received the unused Skylab B he "cried ceremonially in front of it", Lind later said; "I was ... in the right place at the wrong time".
In 1972, Lind expressed interest in being assigned to the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, the final mission of the Apollo program; ultimately, Brand was assigned as Command Module Pilot alongside senior managers Slayton (who assigned himself to the mission as Docking Module Pilot after being medically grounded for most of the space program) and Commander Thomas P. Stafford. He was reassigned to the Science and Applications Directorate in 1974, formally codifying his status as a scientist-astronaut.
For the Space Shuttle program, Lind was reassigned as a Mission Specialist along with McCandless (who, unlike Lind, continued to train as a potential Space Shuttle orbiter pilot until 1983) and the remaining Apollo-era scientist-astronauts. During this period, he was a member of the Astronaut Office's Operations Missions development group, responsible for developing payloads for the early Space Shuttle Orbital Flight Test (OFT) missions and the Canadarm.
Lind finally flew as the lead Mission Specialist and de facto Payload Commander on STS-51-B (April 29 to May 6, 1985), logging over 168 hours in space. Due to Apollo-era managerial preferences, NASA budgetary problems and delays in the Space Shuttle program, Lind waited longer than any other continuously serving American astronaut for a spaceflight: 19 years.
STS-51-B, the Spacelab-3 science mission, launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on April 29, 1985. Following several delays, this was the first fully operational Spacelab mission. A space program aficionado has speculated that Lind's science-dominant assignment was a "reward... for sticking around so long," in contrast to the majority of early STS missions that were centered around routinized satellite deployments. The seven men crew 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.
With the help of his Alaska postdoctoral group, Lind developed and conducted an experiment to photograph the Earth's aurora. As the experiment used a camera already on the Shuttle, NASA only needed to purchase three rolls of film for $36; Lind described it as "the cheapest experiment that has ever gone into space." After completing 110 orbits of the Earth, the Orbiter Challenger landed at Edwards Air Force Base, California , on May 6, 1985.
Lind retired from NASA on the twentieth anniversary of his selection in 1986. For nine years thereafter, he served as a professor of physics and astronomy at Utah State University.
Lind is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Phi Kappa Phi. Lind was active in the Boy Scouts of America and earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He was also awarded the NASA Exceptional Service Medal in 1974.
Lind has served as a member of the lay ecclesiastical hierarchy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He served as a missionary in the Northeastern United States before graduating from college, and after STS-51-B spoke in General Conference about his experience.