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David C. Leestma papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSP 193

Scope and Contents

The David C. Leestma papers document his personal experience as an astronaut during the early years of the Space Shuttle program and as a NASA manager and director. Included are papers related to the three missions for which he served as a mission specialist; STS-41-G, STS-28, and STS-45.

Leestma later served as manager and director at the Johnson Space Center's Astronaut Office, Flight Crew Operations Directorate, Advanced Planning Office and for initiatives such as the Space Launch Initiative and the Orbital Space Plane program. The papers include writings related to cooperative efforts with Russia and Russian cosmonauts, the International Space Station, and the implementation of various programs and policies from 1980 - 2014.

Also contained in the papers is an extensive collection of personal daily work journals and log books that follow the path of his career and provide a glimpse into the daily life of an astronaut and NASA manager, including Leestma's time in space. Other highlights include Russian and United States astronaut training documents, and a collection of John W. Young technical memos.

Types of materials include audio-visual materials, awards, books, briefings, correspondence, documents, experiment results, journals (diaries), log-books, memos, NASA mission reports, an oral history, papers, photographs, publications, QSL cards (ham radio), and reports.


  • 1969 - 2015
  • Majority of material found within 1982 - 1998


Language of Materials

Collection material is in English.

Access Information

The collection is open for research. A portion of Leestma's personnel papers have been restricted due to privacy considerations.

Copyright and Use Information

Portions of the material in this collection are in the public domain. Other material copyrights held by Purdue University or original creator. Consult with Purdue University Archives and Special Collections prior to reproduction of materials.

Biographical Information

David C. Leestma was born May 6, 1949, in Muskegon, Michigan to Dr. and Mrs. Harold F. Leestma. He graduated from Tustin High School, Tustin, California, in 1967; received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy in 1971, and a Master of Science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1972.

Leestma graduated first in his class from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1971. As a first lieutenant, he was assigned to USS Hepburn (DE-1055) in Long Beach, California, before reporting in January 1972 to the United States Naval Postgraduate School. He completed flight training and received his wings in October 1973. He was assigned to VF-124 in San Diego, California, for initial flight training in the F-14A Tomcat and then transferred to VF-32 in June 1974 and was stationed at Virginia Beach, Virginia. Leestma made three overseas deployments to the Mediterranean/North Atlantic areas while flying aboard the USS John F. Kennedy (CV-67). In 1977, he was reassigned to Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Four (VX-4) at Naval Air Station Point Mugu, California. As an operational test director with the F-14A, he conducted the first operational testing of new tactical software for the F-14 and completed the follow-on test and evaluation of new F-14A avionics, including the programmable signal processor. He also served as fleet model manager for the F-14A tactical manual. He has logged more than 3,500 hours of flight time, including nearly 1,500 hours in the F-14A.

Leestma was selected to become an astronaut in 1980. His space flight experience included STS-41G launched October 5, 1984, STS-28 Launched August 8, 1989, and STS-45 launched on March 24, 1992. Leestma also he served as a Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) for STS-51C through STS-61A. He was then assigned as the Chief, Mission Development Branch responsible for assessing the operational integration requirements of payloads that will fly aboard the shuttle. From February 1990 to September 1991, when he started training for his third space mission, Leestma served as Deputy Director of Flight Crew Operations. Following this flight, he served as Deputy Chief and acting Chief of the Astronaut Office. Leestma was selected as the Director, Flight Crew Operations Directorate (FCOD) in November 1992. As Director, FCOD, he had overall responsibility for the Astronaut Office and for Johnson Space Center (JSC) Aircraft Operations. During his tenure as Director, 41 shuttle flights and seven Mir missions were successfully flown. He was responsible for the selection of Astronaut Groups 15, 16 and 17. While Director, he oversaw the requirements, development modifications of the T-38A transition to the T-38N avionics upgrades. In September 1998, Leestma was reassigned as the Deputy Director, Engineering, in charge of the management of JSC Government Furnished Equipment (GFE) Projects.

In August 2001, he was assigned as the Johnson Space Center Project Manager for the Space Launch Initiative, responsible for all JSC work related to the development of the new launch system. Leestma also served as the Assistant Program Manager for the Orbital Space Plane, responsible for the vehicle systems and operations of a new crewed vehicle that served as the transfer vehicle for space flight crews to and from the International Space Station. He then served as the Manager, JSC Exploration Programs Office, responsible for JSC's role in the future exploration programs that were to fulfill the President's vision for exploration. Leestma then took charge of the JSC Advanced Planning Office, which helped to plan JSC's strategy to be fully ready for the challenges of the future, including leading the human missions to the moon and Mars. His latest assignment was to lead JSC's Technology Transfer and Commercialization Office, providing the opportunity for NASA developed technologies to move into the commercial arena. A veteran of three space flights, Leestma logged a total of 532.7 hours in space. He served as a mission specialist on STS-41G (October 5-13, 1984), STS-28 (August 8-13, 1989), and STS-45 (March 24 to April 2, 1992). Leestma retired from NASA on May 30, 2014.


27.977 Cubic Feet (Fifty-five letter-size full-width manuscript boxes, eight letter-size half-width manuscript boxes, four cubic foot boxes, four flat boxes, one legal-size half-width manuscript box, one shoe box, and an unboxed artifact)


The papers are organized into eight series. Whenever possible, original order of the material has been retained.
  1. Navy Career
  2. Astronaut Training
  3. Daily Work Journals and Log Books
  4. NASA Missions
  5. NASA Administration
  6. Audio Visual
  7. Publications
  8. Artifacts

Physical Access Information

Material is stored off-site. At least 24 hours notice is required.

Source of Acquisition

Donated by David C. Leestma, 2014.

Processing Information

All materials have been housed in acid-free folders and acid-free boxes.
David C. Leestma papers
Under Review
Mary A. Sego
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Edition statement
Second edition. Collection description first completed 2016-10-12.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States