Donald Kent "Deke" Slayton - Bomber pilot, test pilot, NASA Astronaut; born Donald Kent Slayton on was born on March 1, 1924 in Sparta, Wisconsin.
Slayton attended elementary school in Leon, Wisconsin and graduated from Sparta High School in 1942.
After graduation, Slayton entered the United States Army Air Forces as a cadet, training as a B-25 bomber pilot and received his wings in April 1943. Slayton flew 56 combat missions with the 340th Bombardment Group over Europe during World War II and later flew seven combat missions over Japan in a Douglas A-26 Invader as part of the 319th Bombardment Group. In June 1955, Slayton attended and graduated from U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School to become a test pilot at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
In 1959, Slayton was one of 110 military test pilots selected by their commanding officers as candidates for the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Project Mercury, the first U.S. manned space flight program. Following a series of physical and psychological tests, NASA selected Slayton to be one of the original group of seven Mercury astronauts. In 1961, Slayton was diagnosed with an erratic heart rate and ended up being the only member of the "Mercury Seven" to not fly a Mercury mission.
Because he was grounded, Slayton obtained the unofficial title of "chief astronaut" when he was assigned as Coordinator of Astronaut Activities, a position later re-designated as Chief of the Astronaut Office.
Slayton was restored to full flight status on July 1970. Later he was selected in February 1973 as docking module pilot for the Apollo–Soyuz Test Project, a docking between an American Apollo spacecraft and a Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. On July 17, 1975, the unnumbered Apollo Command/Service Module docked with the Soviet Soyuz 19 in orbit, and astronauts Slayton, Thomas P. Stafford and Vance D. Brand conducted crew transfers with cosmonauts Alexey Leonov and Valeri Kubasov.
After the Apollo–Soyuz flight, he became head of the Approach and Landing Tests (ALT) of NASA's Space Shuttle.
For more information on Deke Slayton, visit Wikipedia.
Above: Deke Slayton as a bomber pilot during World War II.
Above: World War II photograph showing future Astronaut Donald "Deke" K. Slayton (on right) and 1st Lt. Ed Steinman (on left) beside a Douglas A-26 bomber in the Pacific Theater of Operations during the summer of 1945.
Above: The Mercury Seven astronauts. Back row, from left to right: Wally Schirra and Gordon Cooper. Middle row: John Glenn and Scott Carpenter. Front row: Deke Slayton, Gus Grissom and Alan Shepard.
Above: Deke Slayton with cosmonaut Alexey Leonov in the Soyuz spacecraft during the July 17, 1975 Apollo–Soyuz Test Project.