Hoot’s Rules

Hoot’s Rules

Just after the Shuttle launched, a warning alarm sounded.  Sensors on one of a pair of components on a critical system had quit.  Pilot Charlie Bolden reached over to a panel on his right and powered off the failed system.  By mistake, he had turned off the working system.  Within moments, the vehicle began gyrating and pitched violently downward out of control toward the ocean.  They were doomed.  Luckily, Charlie, my husband Hoot Gibson, and...

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Head On A Swivel

Head On A Swivel

When I got to NASA in 1978, I had a lot to learn. Being a good flight crew member was one of the most important things I would need to know. Shortly after we got to Houston, we began training to fly in the back seat of the NASA T-38 jets. We knew that if we mastered that kind of flying, we might someday train to fly as a crewmember on the Space Shuttle. How was it going to feel flying with some of the best pilots in the nation? Many of my pilot...

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Thirty-Five New Guys Reunite

Thirty-Five New Guys Reunite

In January of 1978, NASA announced its newest class of Astronauts. There would be thirty-five in the class. It would include women and minorities for the first time. They came from across the nation: big cities and farms, Ivy League schools and state colleges, civilian and military, pilots and scientists, Protestants, Catholics, Jews, atheists…and one Buddhist. There were fifteen designated as Pilots and twenty as Missions Specialists. The...

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Poking Fun

Poking Fun

Among Astronauts, there was friendly competition and joking around. Those of us who didn’t come from the military had to learn what this was all about, so we could understand it—and sometimes join in.   It might have sounded like “harassment” but it was all in fun. Pilots who joined the Astronaut Corps had either been fighter pilots or attack pilots. The job of fighter pilots had been to engage enemy fighter pilots. They protected the troops on...

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A Piggyback Miracle

A Piggyback Miracle

John Kiker, “Mr. John” as our family knew him, was assigned to a nearly impossible task. As head of the Mechanisms Branch at the Johnson Space Center (JSC), he was asked to design a way to get the Space Shuttles to the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida from landing sites in California or New Mexico. The initial plan was to fill the cargo bay with fuel and hang airplane engines on the wings. There were significant problems with that idea....

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