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Originally published Friday, April 16, 2010 at 10:31 AM

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Former astronaut Dunbar to leave as CEO of Museum of Flight

Former astronaut Bonnie Dunbar is leaving her job as chief executive officer of The Museum of Flight in July to work on other museum efforts, including obtaining a space shuttle for the museum.

Former astronaut Bonnie Dunbar is leaving her job as chief executive officer of The Museum of Flight in July to work on other museum efforts, including obtaining a space shuttle for the museum.

Dunbar, who's from the Eastern Washington town of Outlook in Yakima County, wants to work on obtaining one of the three space shuttles to be retired next year and on fundraising for a Space Gallery to house it, according to the museum.

Michael Hallman, a member of the museum's board of trustees, will take charge of day-to-day operations beginning next week.

Hallman, a former top executive for Microsoft, Boeing Computer Services and IBM, will serve without pay.

"Obtaining one of the retired shuttles for the state of Washington and building a world-class Space Gallery is a top priority for the museum and time is running short," said Kevin Callaghan, chairman of the museum's board of trustees. "We are in a good position to be successful, but we need a strong push to the finish, and Bonnie is the person to lead this effort."

"Thanks to the governor and Legislature, the state's capital budget included $3 million for a Space Gallery to house the space shuttle and other space-exploration artifacts," Dunbar said.

"It brings us to three-quarters of our goal, which we expect to reach soon. In the meantime, we are hard at work on a design for the gallery."

While the building is essential, Dunbar noted that there will be strong competition for the retired shuttles.

Dunbar will work with government, business, education and civic leaders to continue to build statewide support for the space-shuttle acquisition.

Dunbar will also play a key role in several other strategic initiatives on behalf of the museum, including continued participation in regional educational task forces, supporting Aviation High School, and promoting the museum's numerous science, technology, engineering and mathematics oriented K-12 education programs.

Since becoming president and CEO in 2005, Dunbar has overseen expansion of the museum's collections and exhibit space, the addition of the award winning T. Evans Wyckoff Memorial Bridge, the acceptance of the museum as a Smithsonian Affiliate, and the recent reaccreditation of the museum by the American Association of Museums.

The Museum of Flight is only one of a few air and space museums to have both designations.

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She has strengthened and expanded educational programs and is part of a regional partnership to build a new Aviation High School on the museum's campus.

Before becoming president and CEO of the Museum of Flight five years ago, Dunbar worked in the aerospace industry for Boeing and Rockwell International, and retired from NASA after serving for 27 years in both operational flight and senior executive service positions.

Between 1985 and 1998, Dunbar flew five space-shuttle missions, two of them to the Russian space station, MIR.

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