Secrets to Becoming an Astronaut

Secrets to Becoming an Astronaut

So you want to become an astronaut? It’s not easy. The positions are competitive…highly, but astronauts are still being selected to fly aboard the International Space Station which now orbits the Earth. When I applied in 1977, it was the first time women and minorities earned the right to apply. Imagine that! The specifics have changed in the last half decade but a college degree is always a prerequisite with preferably an advanced degree...

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My Best Space Moment

My Best Space Moment

How do Astronauts keep in touch with their families when they are orbiting the Earth? Communicating with loved ones became more sophisticated over time.  In the beginning, families could send up brief messages with other NASA information to the Shuttle’s antiquated printer. Later on, those few words could be sent with packets of information to our onboard computer.  Neither of those methods were private, and so they were painfully terse: “Miss...

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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 High with VELCRO ® and Duct Tape

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...

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The Penguin Patch

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...

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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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