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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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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Who Are Your Heroes?

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...

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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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Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

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,...

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