The veteran astronaut who commanded the first space shuttle flight after the Challenger disaster announced he will leave NASA next month to take a job at the Pentagon.

Navy Capt. Frederick "Rick" Hauck announced Thursday his resignation after 11 years with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.Hauck leaves NASA April 3 and will become director of Navy Space Systems on the staff of the chief of naval operations in late May.

After the 1986 Challenger explosion, Hauck worked in Washington as the NASA associate administrator in charge of congressional relations.

He returned to Houston and was commander of the Sept. 29 launch of Discovery, which marked NASA's return to manned space missions.

Hauck also commanded a 1984 shuttle mission and was a pilot during his first shuttle flight in 1983.