Born May 6, 1949, in Muskegon, Michigan. He received a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the United States Naval Academy in 1971, and a master of science degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School in 1972. He has logged over 3,500 hours of flight time, including nearly 1,500 hours in the F-14A. A veteran of three space flights, Leestma has logged a total of 532.7 hours in space. He served as a mission specialist on Challenger (October 5-13, 1984), Columbia (August 8-13, 1989), and Atlantis (March 24 to April 2, 1992).