Astronaut Alan “Dex” Poindexter joined fellow Space Shuttle commanders and crewmembers at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center recently to welcome Discovery to its new home in the Smithsonian. Poindexter commanded the next-to-last Discovery mission, STS-131, in 2010. He also served as pilot on Atlantis for the STS-122 mission in 2008. Both shuttle crews delivered equipment for construction of the International Space Station.
Poindexter joined the astronaut corps in 1998 in the midst of a distinguished career as a naval aviator, first as a fighter pilot, then as a test pilot. He served two deployments in the Arabian Gulf during operations Desert Storm and Southern Watch in the early 1990s. Afterward he attended the Naval Postgraduate School and U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, graduating and serving first as a test pilot at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, and then at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia.
Poindexter accumulated more than 4,000 hours in more than 30 types of aircraft and logged more than 450 carrier landings. He also tallied almost 28 days and more than 11 million miles in space, orbiting the Earth 443 times.
Although born in California and a graduate of Georgia Tech, Poindexter considered Rockville, Maryland, his hometown. At the time of his death, Captain Poindexter had retired from NASA and returned to active duty in the Navy to serve as dean of students at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterrey, California.
Valerie Neal is a curator in the Space History Division of the National Air and Space Museum.