‘Wales, America and the Space Race’ In conversation with George Abbey

Former Director of the NASA Johnson Space Centre, George Abbey will give this year’s Richard Burton Lecture.

Thursday 25 April at 6.30pm in the Faraday Lecture Theatre, Swansea University.

There will be a reception in the Faraday foyer before the lecture from 6pm with refreshments.

Mr George W. S. Abbey Sr., previously Director of the NASA Johnson Space Centre and now  Fellow in Space Policy at the Baker Centre, Rice University, Houston will give the annual lecture funded by Richard Burton’s widow Sally Burton on the 25 April at Swansea University.

The free public lecture entitled ‘In-conversation with George Abbey: Wales, America and the Space Race’ will see the former senior NASA official discuss a number of sensational topics including the moon landings, the space shuttle programme and why Wales is the most photographed nation from space.

George Abbey was a pilot in the US Air Force before he joined NASA in 1964 where he was assigned to the Apollo programme. In 1967 he left the Air Force and joined the Johnson Space Centre where he assisted the technical director before becoming director of flight operations, where his responsibilities included the management of flight and crew in spaceflight missions.

In the eighties he became director of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate and selected the crews that flew during the early years of the Space Shuttle programme, also putting the first women in space. In 1996, Abbey was made Director of the Johnson Space Centre (1996-2001) where he was part of the NASA Shuttle-MIR Programme, and a central figure in the development of the international space station.

 George Abbey was born in Seattle, Washington. His mother was from Laugharne, and Mr Abbey has a continued interest in Wales and his Welsh heritage. He is an Honorary Fellow of Swansea University, where his son James Abbey is International Strategic Collaboration Advisor.

Former National Poet of Wales and current Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Swansea University, Gwyneth Lewis, will introduce the lecture with a reading from Zero Gravity, an award-winning collection of poems based on the experiences of her Welsh-American cousin, Joe Tanner, who went up in the space shuttle.

 This is the third Richard Burton Annual lecture. Previous speakers have been Professor Chris Williams, Editor of the Richard Burton Diaries and Director of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities (RIAH) and John McGrath, Director, National Theatre of Wales.

Director of the Richard Burton Centre for the Study of Wales, Dr Daniel Williams (who will be in conversation with George Abbey) said,

 “It is with great excitement that the Richard Burton Lecture takes a transatlantic turn this year, and I’m delighted that George Abbey has agreed to come back to Wales. Given that his career spanned 39 years, from the earliest days of Apollo to construction of the International Space Station, and that he selected the astronauts for the Space Shuttle missions, there will be no shortage of fascinating topics to discuss. If we add to all that the fact that George Abbey’s mother was from Laugharne, that he arranged for Dylan Thomas’s works to be taken to space, and that he’s a fan of Celtic folk music, it promises to be a remarkable evening.”

The lecture will start promptly on Thursday 25 April at 6.30pm in the Faraday Lecture Theatre, Swansea University. There will be a reception in the Faraday foyer before the lecture from 6pm with refreshments.

This is a free event and all are welcome to attend.


The reception is supported by the Learned Society for Wales. For more information please contact Dr Daniel G. Williams