Collisions

Collisions

Our universe is vast—but that doesn’t mean things don’t run into each other.  Some say our moon was formed out of the debris from an Earth impact with a huge boulder named Theia. And later in Earth’s history, the dinosaurs and most life on our planet may have been destroyed by collision with an asteroid. On some dark nights, we can see meteors burning up as they enter our atmosphere. It’s no surprise then that our spacecraft sometimes get...

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A Disorderly Christmas

A Disorderly Christmas

Hoot’s second Shuttle flight, his first as Commander, was scheduled for 1985, but many delays in the Shuttle program pushed it later and later into the year.  His crew was a great bunch—with several good friends from the Astronaut Corps.  Three members of the crew—Hoot, George “Pinkie” Nelson, and Steve Hawley—had flown before, but it was a first for Charlie Bolden, and Franklin Chang Diaz, as well as Payload Specialists (who would only be...

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Flying after the Challenger

Flying after the Challenger

The Reality of Launch Nothing would ever compare to my first Shuttle launch: the noise, the vibration, the acceleration, and those crushing g-forces…and their sudden surrender to the onset of weightlessness. Having watched my friends’ and my husband’s fiery baptisms, my anxiety for my first launch was about getting into space at last, as well as the pressure to perform to the best of my ability. That perspective changed after January 28, 1986. ...

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Were You Afraid?

Were You Afraid?

That is one of the most frequent questions I am asked about my Space Shuttle launches. Would you be scared perched atop four and a half million pounds of explosives with someone about to light the fuse? I had been named as a crew member on a flight that was to launch in June, 1984.  Through many twists and turns in NASA’s schedule, I ended up training for three different flights until an April 12, 1985 launch date was locked in.  We had...

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A Remarkable Visit

A Remarkable Visit

On January 12, 1986, the crew of STS 61C suited up and headed for the Space Shuttle launch pad.  They had been trying get into orbit since December 18…with many grueling attempts that had worn them (and their families) out.  But this day was the right day: no malfunctioning equipment, no boats in the restricted area off the coast, no weather problems in Florida or at the overseas emergency landing sites.  The countdown proceeded, and soon they...

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Plutonium Brownies

Plutonium Brownies

As can be imagined, the NASA managers and engineers were careful about what went on board the Space Shuttle. Each piece of equipment, each item that went into the stowage lockers, each widget or pair of socks had a part number and was catalogued in voluminous detail for each mission. Nothing could be left behind on the ground; nothing could be there that shouldn’t be. All astronauts understood this was a necessary attention to detail for...

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