Secret Astronauts


Col. Albert H. Crews Jr.
United States Air Force

"We didn't really have a pecking order, but Al was our senior guy. He was our leader and the one we all looked up to."—Col. Lachlan Macleay


Albert Hanlin Crews Jr. was born on March 23, 1929, in El Dorado, Arkansas. He obtained a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Southern Louisiana in 1950 and later earned a master of science in aeronautical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Career highlights

The secret announcement in June 1966 that they were training as reconnaissance astronauts may have come as a shock to most of the MOL team, but to Al Crews, it was business as usual. Crews had previously been a part of X-20 Dyna-Soar, an Air Force program to build a "spaceplane" that was to engage in intelligence gathering, bomb targets on Earth, and sabotage enemy satellites.

Although the military had already built a Dyna-Soar prototype, the program was canceled on December 10, 1963. That same day, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announced plans to develop the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. Out of the six Dyna-Soar astronauts, only Crews went on to join MOL; others, including Neil Armstrong, joined NASA.

When MOL was canceled in 1969, Crews also entered NASA, but not as an astronaut. He joined Flight Crew Operations at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he worked as a test pilot until retiring as an Air Force colonel in 1994. Crews continues to fly today.

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