Don Beattie

Author of: ISSCapades
Don Beattie  

After graduating from Columbia College and receiving a commission in the U.S. Navy, Don Beattie began a first career as a carrier pilot serving on active duty from 1951 - 1956 and in Ready Reserve squadrons until 1967. While serving, he flew eleven different type prop and jet aircraft.

Upon leaving the Navy, he returned to graduate school at the Colorado School of Mines receiving a M.S. degree in 1958 with majors in Geological Engineering and Geophysics. Hired by Mobil Oil after graduate school, he began a second career supervising a geology field party mapping the large Mobil concessions in little known, jungle and rain forest regions of Colombia S.A., including the mountainous area along the Panama/Colombia border. During the rainy season, he was wellsite geologist on a number of wildcat wells drilled in remote locations of the Llanos and northern Colombia. His final position before leaving Mobil, was District Geologist for Northern Colombia.


While working in Colombia, he learned that NASA was recruiting geologists to help plan Apollo lunar exploration. He was accepted for a job at NASA Headquarters and began work in September 1963 in the newly formed Advanced Manned Missions Office. In this position he participated in planning for Apollo and post-Apollo missions. From 1965 to 1973, he managed NASA offices that had responsibility for the development of experiments, training, and simulations for these missions.In his final position, he was NASA Headquarters Program Manager, Lunar Surface Experiments.

At the end of the Apollo Program, he transferred to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was appointed Director, Advanced Energy Research and Technology Division. This appointment coincided with the first “oil shock” and Division programs grew dramatically for the next three years. A major initiative was RD&D for renewable energy. Hundreds of demonstration projects were installed in the next three years on buildings throughout the U.S. For the two major national energy studies conducted at this time, The Nation’s Energy Future released in 1973, and Project Independence released in 1974, he led the Solar and Geothermal energy panels. In 1975, the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) was formed by President Gerald Ford combining energy research programs from many government agencies. Beattie was appointed as Deputy Assistant Administrator (later as Assistant Administrator) for Solar, Geothermal and Advanced Energy Systems. The latter responsibilities included managing high energy physics and magnetic confinement fusion programs previously under the direction of the Atomic Energy Commission. President Carter, at the beginning of 1978, further consolidated federal energy programs by establishing the cabinet level Department of Energy (DOE). Beattie was appointed as Assistant Secretary (acting) for Conservation and Solar Applications reporting to DOE Secretary James Schlesinger. He held this position until August 1978 when President Carter’s nominee for the position was finally approved. As a senior manager at NSF, ERDA, and DOE, he testified frequently before House and Senate committees explaining and defending programs and budgets.

He returned to NASA in August 1978 as Division Director - Energy Systems Division. This office was responsible for managing all the energy RD&D programs underway at Lewis Research Center (LeRC), Marshall Space Flight Center, Johnson Space Center, Langley Research Center and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. These programs were carried out by using funds transferred from other agencies such as DOE and AID. Advanced technology projects were built and demonstrated for solar and wind energy, electric and hybrid vehicles, magneto hydrodynamics, and fuel cells. For example, LeRC managed contracts that built and operated the world’s largest, multi-megawatt, wind turbines on the island of Oahu and along the Columbia River.

Leaving NASA in 1983, Beattie joined BDM International, a engineering services company, as Vice President Houston Operations. His office provided advanced technology projects for the domestic and foreign oil and gas industry. In 1984 he started his own consulting business. Clients included many Fortune 500 companies such as: General Electric, Boeing, Raytheon, Martin Marietta, Lockheed Martin, Chevron, and Rockwell. He also started a small company, ENDOSAT, to develop a high altitude, long duration UAV.

He was the author of articles published in scientific journals, and author of History and Overview of Solar Heat Technologies, MIT Press, Taking Science to the Moon, Johns Hopkins University Press, and ISScapades: The Crippling of America’s Space Program, CG Publishing Inc. Don Beattie passed away in 2014.


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