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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Heroes

Heroes

What are astronauts really like? These modern-day heroes became my friends in the Shuttle’s heyday.  All are very bright (some brilliant), friendly, hard-working, reliable, and productive.  I had the opportunity to serve twice on selection boards for new astronauts.  We liked to say we were looking for high performing, low maintenance people. That is not to say they were serious all the time.  In fact, they were the most fun-loving people I...

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Teams.

Teams.

How did our nation get to the moon in less than ten years from the time we first sent a man into space? Thousands of people had a hand in that bold adventure. Today I meet them, their children, and their grandchildren who can’t wait to tell me their part in that story with pride. It was not until I got to NASA that I learned to appreciate the true value of teamwork. We had close-knit teams that made sure our spaceflights went well. It took me a...

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Hail, Columbia

Hail, Columbia

On April 12, 1981, I stood near a swamp in Florida with a Search and Rescue team, in case we were needed. We watched the Space Shuttle Columbia, a butterfly bolted to a bullet, roar above the trees and into the sky on its first flight. The magnificence of the moment cannot be described. We cheered, we cried, and we felt so lucky to be present at the birth of the Space Shuttle era. On June 5, 1991, I launched aboard that same vehicle on my...

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A Christmas Miracle.

A Christmas Miracle.

In this holiday season, we all remember Christmases past—the best present ever received or the most perfect gift ever given. In 1968, a miracle happened that made it my most memorable. In 1968, President John F. Kennedy’s goal of landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade and returning him home safely seemed unachievable. The U.S. space program was recovering from that terrible 1967 Apollo 1 fire which had taken the lives of three...

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The First Six American Women Astronauts

The First Six American Women Astronauts

In 1978 NASA selected thirty-five new Astronauts for the Space Shuttle.  There were six women in the class: Sally Ride, Judy Resnik, Anna Fisher, Kathy Sullivan, Shannon Lucid, and me. I was the smallest. We had to figure out how to fit into a world populated almost entirely by men, most of whom were engineers and pilots.  We women understood that we would have to act as a team on some things but that we’d be in competition for others, like...

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