Fletcher, James Chipman (1919–1991)
James Fletcher was a NASA Administrator who oversaw or initiated
many of the major American space projects of the 1970s and 1980s during
two spells in office: 1971–76 and 1986–88. He was in charge
at the time of the three Skylab missions
in 1973–74 and the Viking landings
on Mars in 1976. He also approved the Voyager probes to the outer planets, the Hubble Space Telescope program, and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.
Most significantly, he won approval from the Nixon Administration on January
5, 1972, to develop the Space Shuttle as the Agency's next endeavor in human spaceflight. During his second spell
as Administrator, Fletcher was largely involved in efforts to recover from
the Challenger disaster,
ensuring that NASA reinvested heavily in the Shuttle program's safety and
reliability, and making organizational changes to improve efficiency. A
critical decision resulting from the accident and its aftermath was to expand
greatly the use of expendable launch vehicles. Fletcher received a B.S.
in physics from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in physics from the California
Institute of Technology. After holding research and teaching positions at
Harvard and Princeton Universities, he joined Hughes Aircraft in 1948 and
later worked at the Guided Missile Division of the Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation.
In 1958 he cofounded the Space Electronics Corporation in Glendale, California,
and was later named systems vice president of the Aerojet General Corporation.
In 1964 he became president of the University of Utah, a position he held
until he was named NASA Administrator in 1971. Upon leaving NASA for the
first time in 1977, Fletcher served on the faculty of the University of
Pittsburgh and as an advisor to key national leaders involved in planning