As he watched his flag come down in retirement, a tearful Rear Admiral Thomas Donaldson bid farewell to his 30 year naval career, calling each day a blast. He also referred to the next chapter of his life.
"Debbie and I are just as excited about the new adventure as we are about our past one."
The new adventure is Donaldson's civilian job as Stennis Space Center's next director. Stennis tests the engines that are used to blast the shuttles into space. Donaldson says that mission won't change under his guidance.
"My role, and NASA's role, at Stennis is to continue doing what we've been doing for decades as part of one NASA effort to get back into space safely and quickly."
That means, Donaldson says, finding something positive in tragedies like the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion.
"As odd as that sounds, the organization learns from the mistakes and becomes a better and stronger and more capable organization, really, because of the changes that come about and NASA will be no different."
Donaldson says he's all for new exploration too. President Bush is considering sending more astronauts to the moon, and even to Mars.
"Wherever the director and the President would like the space program to go, I'm right behind them, and look forward to contributing to it."
Donaldson will begin doing that and more in just a few short weeks when he takes over the leadership at Stennis.
Admiral Donaldson's replacement at the meteorology and oceanography command will be Admiral Tim Magee. The U.S. Senate must still confirm Magee's appointment.