Bonnie Dunbar Oral History

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Dublin Core


Bonnie Dunbar Oral History


A ceramic engineer and former NASA astronaut, Dr. Bonnie Dunbar is currently President & CEO of the Museum of Flight in Seattle, WA. Dunbar received her M.S. in ceramic engineering from the University of Washington in 1975. Upon graduation she joined Rockwell International Space Division as a Senior Research Engineer, where she worked on the original ceramic tiles of the space shuttle.

In 1978, Dunbar began her 27-year career at NASA when she was hired as a flight controller at Johnson Space Flight Center. In just two short years she was made a mission specialist astronaut, where she logged 1,208 hours in orbit on five space missions aboard the shuttles Atlantis, Challenger, Columbia and Endeavour. She was a member of the first mission to dock with the Russian Mir Space Station in 1995.

Early in her career as an astronaut, Dunbar also earned her Ph.D. in mechanical/biomedical engineering from the University of Houston. On her last mission in 1998, serving as Payload Commander, Dunbar was responsible for more than four tons of scientific equipment, supplies and water for delivery to Mir, as well as 23 scientific experiments aboard the shuttle.

Dunbar became the Assistant Director for University Research and Affairs at Johnson Space Center in 1998. In this capacity, for the next five years, she was actively involved in the center's educational and grant programs, as well as its extensive collaborative efforts with colleges, universities and scientific and engineering organizations. Her final position with NASA was as Associate Director of Technology Integration and Risk Management at the Johnson Space Center's Space and Life Science Directorate.

Dunbar's space experience and scientific accomplishments have garnered her many honors and distinctions, including SWE's Resnik Challenger Medal (1992) and 2005 Achievement Award. She is a member of several engineering, scientific and medical organizations and serves on a number of boards. She has published extensively, holds one patent, and has given countless presentations on behalf of the engineering community many to school age children and college engineering students.

Oral History Item


Lauren Kata


Dunbar, Bonnie

Date Recorded



Detroit, MI; 1942-1969


“Bonnie Dunbar Oral History,” Michigan Oral History Database, accessed June 13, 2024,

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