Latest Updates from Rhea

Below, you can find the latest updates from Rhea as she shares her adventures on her journey into space as well as the many other adventures she’s had in her lifetime! Sign up at the bottom of the page if you’re interested in being notified each time she posts a new article.

Real Hidden Figures

Posted by on February 24, 2017 in Heroes, Stories, Weekly Blog, Women | 1 comment

Real Hidden Figures

If you haven’t seen the movie, Hidden Figures, you should. It is a true story, a tale of a group of African-American women hired at the dawn of NASA for their superior mathematical skills. It reminded me of so many things at NASA. People ask: do you miss flying in space? Well, yes, a little. Mostly, I miss the fine people. Like the people in the movie, they weren’t all perfect, but they learned from their mistakes and always tried to improve. It was part of the culture. I remember an episode that taught me some important lessons. I had been...

read more

Challenger: Still There…

Posted by on January 27, 2017 in Astronauts, Heroes, Space Shuttle, Weekly Blog | 4 comments

Challenger: Still There…

A little over three decades ago, January 28, 1986 began one of the worst times of my life. I watched as seven friends and the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded into a ball of fire moments after take-off. Soon, all the Astronauts were assigned to assist in the search, recovery, and rebuilding of the United States space program. I was sent to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to help with the identification of the fragments of the accident. In a huge hangar, all of Challenger’s recovered bits and pieces were being collected and assembled into...

read more

A Disorderly Christmas

Posted by on December 15, 2016 in Astronauts, Christmas, Crews, Holidays, Launch, Mission, New Year's Eve, Space, Stories, Weekly Blog, Women | 2 comments

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 making this one flight) Bob Cenker and United States Congressman Bill Nelson. On their training trips to...

read more

Who Are Your Heroes?

Posted by on November 10, 2016 in Astronauts, Go For Orbit, Heroes, Holidays, Space, Stories, Weekly Blog | 1 comment

Who Are Your Heroes?

So…who are your heroes?  People you know personally, people you esteem from afar, people whose lives you admire? I have had the honor of meeting many of my real-life heroes.  One was a fellow astronaut from a different era, Neil Armstrong.  You may remember him, the first human being to set foot on the moon.  His quote that day, July 20, 1969, is famous:  “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”  He came to the Johnson Space Center to share with my astronaut class his experiences in NASA, in space.  He was such a kind, quiet,...

read more

Flying High with VELCRO ® and Duct Tape

Posted by on October 7, 2016 in Astronauts, Crews, Duct Tape, Go For Orbit, Space, Velcro, Weekly Blog | 2 comments

Flying High with VELCRO ® and Duct Tape

Imagine, if someone turned off gravity and everything floated.  How would you keep things in place? Welcome to the world of VELCRO and duct tape.  Was VELCRO a spin-off from the space program? No, but we sure learned how to make good use of it.  Like many great inventions, it came about serendipitously.  In 1941, Swiss electrical engineer George de Mistral went for a walk in the woods and was bothered by the burrs that stuck to his trouser legs and to his dog.  Was he a little crazy to wonder if these pests could be turned into something...

read more

The Penguin Patch

Posted by on September 1, 2016 in Astronauts, Crews, Patches, Space, Space Fashion, Space Shuttle | 7 comments

The Penguin Patch

    Soldiers have worn patches, called insignias, on their uniforms from as far back as World War I.  I got to learn all about the importance of patches at NASA.  Following the lead of military men of yore, there were hundreds of patches commemorating human space flight.  Many of the things that appear on patches have special meaning.   When I came to NASA at the beginning of the Space Shuttle era, I learned that each crew had to have its own patch.  My husband Hoot Gibson and I have eight—and there was a story that went with...

read more

Max Q – the All Astronaut Band

Posted by on August 5, 2016 in Astronauts, Stories, Weekly Blog | 1 comment

Max Q – the All Astronaut Band

The year after the Challenger accident in 1986 was a difficult, busy, and sad one for NASA’s Astronaut Corps. What could we do for fun?  Why not a Sock Hop?  For those who don’t remember the 1950s, high school dances were often held in the school gymnasium. Dancers had to remove their shoes, so they wouldn’t scratch the hardwood floor.  Everyone in the astronaut office was told to plan skits and wear the poodle skirts and bobby socks that were the fashion of the era. Four astronauts decided they would form a band. Brewster Shaw was on rhythm...

read more

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Astronauts, Destiny, Space, Weekly Blog | 2 comments

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Spacefest—the June 9-12 event for space enthusiasts of any stripe (astronomy, manned and robotic space exploration, commercial space development, and space history enthusiast) — in Tucson, Arizona was amazing. Never have I seen so many space fans, especially today when people may believe that we no longer have a United States space program. The International Space Station is in orbit, we do send astronauts up there. But their numbers are few, they must launch on a Russian rocket from Kazakhstan, and they receive little press coverage. Hoot...

read more

Flying after the Challenger

Posted by on May 19, 2016 in Launch, Space Shuttle, Weekly Blog | 3 comments

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.  As we all witnessed the Challenger accident and its aftermath – both public and private, nothing...

read more

Were You Afraid?

Posted by on April 29, 2016 in Author, Go For Orbit, Launch, Preperation, Space, Weekly Blog | 5 comments

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 practiced the flight in every way possible.  The simulators at the Johnson Space Center could be rotated so...

read more