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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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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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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