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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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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