Mark Pestana is a research pilot and flight engineer in the Flight Crew Branch of NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. His flying duties include operation of the DC-8 flying laboratory in the Airborne Science Program. He is a pilot for the Beech 200 King Air and the T-34C. Pestana has accumulated more than 4,000 hours of military and civilian flight experience.
Pestana came to Dryden as a DC-8 mission manager in June 1998, from NASA Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas. Before joining NASA in 1994, Pestana was a flight crew operations engineer with Barrios Technology, Inc., Houston, Texas. Pestana was the Earth and Space Science discipline manager for the International Space Station Program at Johnson. He also served as a flight crew operations engineer in the Astronaut Office. He participated in development of the controls, displays, tools, crew accommodations and procedures for on-orbit assembly, test, and checkout of the International Space Station. He led the analysis and technical negotiations for modification of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for application as an emergency crew return vehicle for space station crews.
Before 1990, Pestana was on active duty with the U. S. Air Force as the director of mission planning for the Department of Defense Space Test Program. There he led an engineering and operations team in flight testing developmental spacecraft systems on Space Shuttle and Department of Defense satellite programs for the Air Force, Army and Navy. Among these projects were experimental missile detection and tracking systems in support of the Strategic Defense Initiative program. Pestana flew P-3 aircraft, verifying these prototype systems.
Pestana received his commission as a second lieutenant in the Air Force through the Reserve Officer Training Corps. He initially served as an orbit analyst at the NORAD Cheyenne Mountain Complex, Colo., responsible for orbit determination, space mission assessments, and orbital decay/impact prediction. After graduating from Air Force pilot training at Williams Air Force Base, Phoenix, Ariz., Pestana flew operational flights in T-38s, KC-135 tankers, and RC-135 "Rivet Joint" and "Combat Sent" reconnaissance aircraft, in which he logged more than 200 combat intelligence sorties. He earned nine Air Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal and two Meritorious Service Medals.
Pestana earned bachelor of science degree in Earth Science from Loyola University, Los Angeles, in 1975. He earned a master of science degree in Systems Management/Research and Development from the University of Southern California in 1988. He is a colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve assigned to the Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.