An Amazing Astronaut

An Amazing Astronaut

What was the world’s impression of the original Astronauts of the ’50s and ’60s? Heroes, experienced jet pilots, brave test pilots: all macho men. Would you believe, when I met him in 1978, one of these macho men was a kindly soul tapping into his creative side? In the mid-1970s, NASA decided to take a new group of Astronauts who would fly aboard its new vehicle, the Space Shuttle. Crews of up to seven would include pilots,...

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The Mercury 13

The Mercury 13

Many people my age remember when, in April of 1959, we met our country’s first “spacemen,” the Mercury 7 Astronauts. They would be the first Americans to fly in space: instant heroes! Few know that there were women pilots who also underwent the testing to become Astronauts in those early days. Dr. Randy Lovelace had helped design and carry out medical exams on the thirty-two male Project Mercury candidates, and he wondered if women could also...

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May I Borrow The Jet?

May I Borrow The Jet?

Remember when you were young and you asked to borrow your parents’ car for a date?  What if you could borrow something faster? Say… a jet?  When I became an astronaut, non-pilot Mission Specialists (MSs) had to learn to fly in the backseat of NASA’s T-38 jets. We had instruction in the communication and navigation systems followed by training in doing the actual flying. The T-38s were slick little planes. They could speed around at 700...

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Rocket Science

Rocket Science

“It ain’t rocket science” is often a term used to mean something isn’t as difficult as the building of rockets. For me, it meant the science that was done on rockets—like what I did on my Shuttle flights. Not long ago, I gave a talk to a group of research scientists who are performing ground-breaking studies in many engineering and science fields. I read summaries of their work…so complex I couldn’t understand it all. I began to think the...

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Top Secret

Top Secret

Before we became Astronauts, NASA wanted to make sure we didn’t have a shady past. The application paperwork was extensive. If we were invited for an interview, we had a background check. When I returned from my week-long job interview at the Johnson Space Center, a neighbor came to see me. “Did you do something wrong?” he asked. “Some guy with an FBI badge came around asking questions about you.  He wanted to know whether you hung out with...

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