College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

AerE faculty member, alum, astronaut Clayton Anderson named President/CEO of SAC & Aerospace Museum

Clayton Anderson with SR-71 Blackbird in museum lobby
Clayton Anderson with SR-71 Blackbird in museum lobby
Clayton Anderson with the SR-71 Blackbird aircraft that welcomes visitors in the lobby of the SAC & Aerospace Museum (Photo by Cate Mischo, SAC & Aerospace Museum)

Iowa State’s own astronaut-in-residence, who made a name for himself orbiting the Earth, is now launching a new chapter on the terra firma of his native Nebraska.

Clayton Anderson, professor of practice in ISU’s Department of Aerospace Engineering, has become the President and CEO of the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Nebraska. The aviation and space history center, a popular tourist attraction, made the official announcement of Anderson’s new position . With the move, Anderson returns to his hometown after spending many years in the Houston, Texas area.

Clayton Anderson official NASA astronaut photo
Anderson in a NASA photo prior to his first space mission

Anderson came to Iowa State’s Department of Aerospace Engineering to pursue a master’s degree and achieved that honor in 1983 before embarking on a long career with NASA, which included supervising the Flight Design Engineering Office of the Flight Design and Dynamics Division and manager of the Emergency Operations Center, NASA Johnson Space Center.

He was accepted as a NASA mission specialist in 1998. As an astronaut, he led the development of the Enhanced Caution and Warning System to aid astronauts in diagnosing and correcting problems that occur during space flight. A veteran of two space flights, Anderson logged 167 days in space and 38 hours and 28 minutes of Extravehicular Activity in six spacewalks. He completed five months aboard the space station in 2007 and served aboard the STS-131 crew in 2010 (see his NASA biographical data).

As a Department of Aerospace Engineering faculty member, he teaches courses involving freshman students covering topics such as the space environment, the history and future of space, spacecraft environmental control systems, ethics, and teamwork. He also leads the department’s Spaceflight Operations WorkshopTM, an annual program for college undergraduate students that immerses them in activities such as SCUBA, skydiving, virtual reality, flight simulation, classroom activity and more, all based on astronaut training techniques that promote “operational thinking,” teamwork, and personal development.

Anderson next to his commemorative wall graphic in Howe Hall
Anderson poses next to the commemorative wall graphic in his honor in Howe Hall, home of Iowa State’s Department of Aerospace Engineering

He was named an Iowa State University Outstanding Alumnus in 2008 and is part of the Department of Aerospace Engineering Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

Exterior and interior of SAC Aerospace Museum
The Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum is a popular attraction for those interested in space and aviation (SAC & Aerospace Museum Photos)

Anderson has also authored five books, including three written for children on the subject of space.

“The opportunity to come back home to Ashland, Nebraska, to lead the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum is the culmination of a career dedicated to space exploration and education,” Anderson said in the Strategic Air Command & Aerospace Museum news release. “As we head toward the Museum’s 25th anniversary in 2023, I look forward to collaborating with communities throughout the region to tell the powerful story of Nebraska and America’s role in military command and its relationship with our nation’s aerospace exploration.”