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Pat Patton Interviews
Interview with Mike Coats

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I have a very interesting guest who plays an important role in the future of the NASA/ Johnson Space Center, the Bay Area Houston region.  My interview is with Mike Coats, the director of the NASA/Johnson Space Center. Listen: RealPlayer  MP3
Pat Patton with Mike CoatsMike graduated from Annapolis and became a Naval Aviator with 315 combat missions in Southeast Asia.  He served as a flight instructor at the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and has logged over 5,000 hours flying time in 28 different types of aircraft, and over 400 carrier landings. Mike became a NASA Astronaut in August 1979.  A veteran of three space flights, Coats flew on STS-41-D in 1984, STS-29 in 1989, and STS-39 in 1991, and has logged over 463 hours in space.
Mike retired as a Captain from the United States Navy and the Astronaut Office in August, 1991, and joined the corporate arena. 

From 1998 to 2005, he was Vice President of Advanced Space Transportation for Lockheed Martin in Denver, Colorado.  In November 2005, Mike was chosen to be the 10th director of the NASA/Johnson Space Center. (Note: The audio in this report incorrectly states that Coats was selected as JSC Director in November 2002.) 

Mike was elected into the Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) in 2008, was inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2007, and was awarded the FAI Gold Space Medal in 2006.  He is the recipient of the Defense Superior Service Medal, 3 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 32 Strike Flight Air Medals, 3 Individual Action Air Medals, 9 Navy Commendation Medals with Combat V, 3 NASA Space Flight Medals, the NASA Distinguished Service Medal, and the NASA Medal For Outstanding Leadership.
When I asked Mike what influenced him as a child to dream about flying and then join the Navy to become a Naval Aviator, he said that he grew up in an Air Force family and that his father was a bomber pilot and flew in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam.  Mike said he was fascinated by airplanes since he was a child.  His dream as a child was to be a pilot on an aircraft carrier.  Mike talked about his night carrier landings and said he felt as a naval aviator that a night carrier landing was the most challenging thing a pilot can do. 

One of my favorite parts of this interview is the conversation that Mike had with President George H.W. Bush at the White House after his STS-29 Mission on March 13-18, 1989, and the role President Bush played in Mike flying on his third mission, STS-39 on April 28 to May 6, 1991.

We discussed NASA's 50th Year Anniversary on October 1, 2008, and the activities the Johnson Space Center has planned to celebrate the 50th anniversary.  The Johnson Space Center website is  and NASA's 50th Year Anniversary website is  
Mike’s passion, excitement, and enthusiasm about being the director of the NASA/Johnson Space Center is very clear in this interview.  Mike said, “being the director of NASA / Johnson Space Center is the best job in the world.  I have a team that is amazingly talented and amazingly motivated.  It is a privilege to work for the space program because you feel like you are making a difference, and it is important to the country, and that is pretty special.  I could never repay what I owe this country, for what they have given me.  I have been able to live my dreams, and I am still living my dream.”
To me, one of the most important aspects of Mike’s successful career is his focus on his wife, Diane, and his family.  And anyone who knows Mike knows about his adorable identical twin granddaughters.  They are even mentioned in his NASA bio.  Mike said this granddaughters will turn two on July 4th and one of his primary roles in life is to spoil them rotten. 
One of the goals of my interviews is to focus on accomplishing dreams and living lives of excellence.  Mike’s outstanding success throughout his various careers, his impressive accomplishments, and his dedication to NASA and the Johnson Space Center, his family, and our community, make him an outstanding leader and a good friend to the Bay Area Houston community. 

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