NASA Remembers Former NASA Johnson Director George W. S. Abbey

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March 25, 2024

RELEASE J24-008

NASA Remembers Former NASA Johnson Director George W. S. Abbey

George W. S. Abbey, former director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, died Sunday, March 24, in Houston after an illness. The Seattle native was 91. 

“A true visionary, Mr. Abbey demonstrated transformational leadership as Johnson’s seventh center director. During his tenure, the space shuttle flew more than 25 successful missions; the joint U.S. and Russian Shuttle-Mir Program was completed, providing important information for long-duration spaceflight,” said Vanessa Wyche, director of NASA Johnson. “He was instrumental in the Johnson team’s involvement in developing and launching the first elements of the International Space Station, which marked the beginning of a new era in space exploration. On behalf of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, we send our condolences to Mr. Abbey’s loved ones during this difficult time.”

Abbey had a long and storied career in human spaceflight that began with NASA in 1964 and continued beyond his retirement from the agency. As the director of flight operations, he oversaw selection of NASA’s first space shuttle astronauts, mission operations, and the new shuttle program’s approach and landing tests.

From 1987 to 1993, Abbey supported NASA Headquarters in Washington, serving in key roles in human spaceflight, and on the National Space Council. He returned to Johnson in 1994, first as deputy director, then director, leading the development and launch of the space station. Abbey retired from the agency in 2003.

In December 2021, NASA named the Saturn V rocket display park outside Johnson’s main gate for Abbey. Abbey instituted the Longhorn Project, a vital STEM program that provides students with hands-on agricultural experiences and academic scholarships. He leaves behind a legacy of excellence and lasting impact as he will continue to inspire over 1.2 million visitors who visit the George W.S. Abbey Rocket Park annually.

“Abbey’s dedication to human spaceflight remained steadfast. As the NASA family mourns his passing, we are grateful for his leadership and the legacy he leaves behind,” Wyche said.

Abbey is survived by his five children, his eight grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

Learn more about Abbey’s career in support of NASA at:

https://www.nasa.gov/people/george-w-s-abbey/

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Kelly Humphries / Nilufar Ramji

Kelly.o.humphries@nasa.gov / niliufar.ramji@nasa.gov

281-483-5111

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