Board of Advisors :: Douglas R. Cooke, NASA

Coalition for Deep Space Exploration


Douglas R. Cooke
Associate Administrator for NASA’s Office of Exploration Systems Mission Directorate (ret.)

Douglas Cooke headshot

Doug Cooke is an aerospace consultant with over 43 years’ experience in human space flight programs, advising companies and government on program strategies, program management, proposal development, strategic planning and technical matters.

In 2011 Mr. Cooke retired as Associate Administrator for NASA’s Office of Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, having been assigned to this position in December, 2008. As Associate Administrator, Mr. Cooke was responsible for the Constellation, SLS, Orion, Ground Systems Development and Operations, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, Commercial Cargo and Crew, Human Research and Exploration Technology Programs. These programs developed flight vehicles and hardware systems for human exploration into deep space, including the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids, Mars and its moons and other destinations. They developed critical technologies, new capabilities, and human research to support future human spacecraft and exploration missions. Responsibilities included partnering with industry to develop commercial capabilities for cargo and crew transportation to and from low Earth orbit. In his last year at NASA, Mr. Cooke led the directorate and program teams in the analysis, designs and establishment of the Orion Multipurpose Crew Vehicle and the Space Launch System. He personally presented the proposals at agency level meetings, where the administrator accepted these programs.

Mr. Cooke has 38 years of unique experience at NASA, with 32 years at Johnson Space Center and 6 at NASA Headquarters. He held significant responsibilities during critical periods of the Space Shuttle, Space Station and Exploration Programs, including top management positions in all three programs.

Mr. Cooke’s first major challenge began in 1975 when he was tasked with defining and implementing an entry aerodynamic flight test program for the Space Shuttle. He led this effort through the Approach and Landing Tests in 1977, and initial orbital flights of the Space Shuttle beginning in 1981 through 1984, opening flight constraints to meet entry design specifications.

Mr. Cooke led the Analysis Office when the Space Station Program Office was first organized in 1984 at the Johnson Space Center. He led the work that defined the Space Station configuration, many of its design details, technical attributes and requirements.

Following the Space Shuttle Challenger accident, Mr. Cooke was assigned to the Space Shuttle Program Office. He helped lead a Civil Service and contractor team to provide the system engineering and integration function that resulted in the return of the Space Shuttle to flight on September 29, 1988. He reached the position of Deputy Manager of the NSTS Engineering Integration Office.

Mr. Cooke has played a pivotal role in planning for human space exploration into deep space beginning in 1989. He helped to lead a NASA team that produced the “90 Day Study” on lunar and Mars exploration. Mr. Cooke was subsequently assigned to the Synthesis Group led by Lt. General Tom Stafford, Gemini and Apollo Astronaut. The team produced a report for the White House entitled “America at the Threshold: America’s Space Exploration Initiative.” Mr. Cooke was selected to be the Manager of the Exploration Programs Office at JSC, where he initiated and led NASA agency-wide studies for the human return to the Moon, and exploration of Mars.

In March of 1993, the agency undertook the redesign of Space Station Freedom. Mr. Cooke was assigned the responsibility of leading the engineering and technical aspects of the redesign. He was subsequently chosen to serve in the Space Station Program Office as Vehicle Manager, leading and managing the design, hardware development and systems engineering and integration for the International Space Station. From April to December of 1996, Mr. Cooke served as Deputy Manager of the Space Station Program Office.

In 1996, strategic emphasis was again placed on NASA planning for human exploration beyond Low Earth Orbit. Mr. Cooke served as manager for the Advanced Development Office at the Johnson Space Center. He provided NASA leadership for the planning of human missions beyond Earth orbit; including the Moon, Mars, libration points, and asteroids. This team developed integrated human and robotic mission objectives, defined investment strategies for exploration technologies, and managed NASA exploration mission architecture analyses. Mr. Cooke was detailed to NASA headquarters during portions of this period to contribute to headquarters level strategies for human exploration.

In 2003, Mr. Cooke served as NASA technical advisor to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board from the time of the accident to the publishing of the report. He made significant contributions to forensic analysis of the Columbia debris and to the education of the Investigation Board in various aspects of the Shuttle design, program, operations and interpretation of the investigation data.

Mr. Cooke served as Deputy Associate Administrator for the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate from 2004 until 2008, when he became Associate Administrator. He made significant contributions to the structuring of its programs, defining the program content, budget planning and providing technical leadership. Mr. Cooke also led the efforts to define long term NASA field center assignments for hardware development and operational responsibilities. He was the Source Selection Authority for the major exploration contract competitions. In this role he successfully selected the companies who have been on contract. He initiated and led the development of the Global Exploration Strategy activity, which resulted in the establishment of the International Space Exploration Coordination Group and the release of the Global Exploration Roadmap.

Mr. Cooke is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering.

Major Awards: The first Texas A&M Outstanding Aerospace Engineer Alumni Award- 2013, NASA Distinguished Service Medal- 2011. Space Transportation Association Lifetime Achievement Award- 2011, SES Presidential Distinguished Rank Award- 2006, NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal- 2003, NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal- 2002,SES Presidential Meritorious Rank Award- 1998, NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal- 1997, NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal- 1993, NASA Exceptional Service Medal- 1988, JSC Certificate of Commendation- 1986, JSC Certificate of Commendation- 1983

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