Born: 1932-08-21. Birth Place: Seattle, Washington.
Abbey graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1954, and then served in the Air Force, amassing 4,000 flight hours. He earned a master's degree in electrical engineering from the Air Force Institute of Technology in 1959. Abbey first worked with NASA in 1964, as an Air Force Captain assigned to the Apollo Program. In December 1967 he left the Air Force and was named technical assistant to the NASA Houston Director. Abbey received the Medal of Freedom for his work during the Apollo 13 disaster.
In January 1976 he was named Director of Flight Operations, and in 1983 Director of the Flight Crew Operations Directorate. In these positions he was in charge of astronaut selection and training throughout the early shuttle program.
In October 1987 Abbey moved to NASA Headquarters in Washington DC. There he was appointed Deputy Associate Administrator for Space Flight in March 1988. In July 1990, he was selected as Deputy for Operations and senior NASA representative to the Synthesis Group, charged with defining NASA's strategy for returning to the Moon and landing on Mars. In July 1991, Abbey was appointed Senior Director for Civil Space Policy for the National Space Council in the Executive Office of the President.
Abbey was named Special Assistant to the NASA Administrator in 1992. In April 1993, tasked with saving the over-budget Space Station Freedom program, Abbey put together a small tiger team of old Apollo hands, including John Young, Tom Stafford, and Max Faget. Over a single weekend they came up with a new modular International Space Station, using Russian modules with some of those planned for Freedom. The first step would be American shuttle flights to the Russian Mir station. Tasked with implementing the new approach, Abbey returned to Houston, first as Deputy Director in 1994, and then as Center Director in 1996. In February 2001 he returned to Headquarters as Senior Assistant for International Issues. Abbey retired from NASA on 3 January 2003.
Although disliked by some astronauts, Abbey played an enormous and key role in both shuttle operations and the conception and implementation of the International Space Station. Yet he remained unknown to the public - one newspaper story ran a picture of him with the caption "unidentified NASA official greets astronauts".