Hurricanes & The Space Program

Hurricanes & The Space Program

When Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston, it brought back memories of my NASA days in that area.  Thirty-four years ago this month, my husband, fellow Astronaut, Hoot Gibson, and I experienced a fearsome hurricane up close. The Johnson Space Center is located near the Texas Gulf Coast, half-way between Houston and Galveston.  It has seen its share of storms.  Our home for much of our astronaut careers was on a bayou…not far from Galveston...

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Diapers, Underwear, and Makeup

Diapers, Underwear, and Makeup

There were many issues to address when women were first accepted into NASA’s Astronaut Corps. While some were important, others were mundane. All had to be decided. How could we urinate while waiting on the launch pad or during a spacewalk? Now that was a major concern of the space program and all six female Astronauts! The device made for the men wasn’t going to work for the women. While designers invented a variety of contraptions that fit...

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Working With PJs

Working With PJs

Among my most interesting jobs at NASA was one of my first important ones.  The first Space Shuttle launch was scheduled for the spring of 1981.  My class of “Thirty Five New Guys” who had joined the Astronaut Corps in 1978 hoped we’d get to play a role in that exciting upcoming event. Director of Flight Crew Operations George Abbey called me to his office in 1980 with a request: “Rhea, do you think you could work on the search and rescue...

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Where’s Waldo? A Different Perspective

Where’s Waldo? A Different Perspective

The view from space was incredible.  From 200 miles up, there was a completely new perspective.  To see the distinctive hook of Cape Cod or the blues and greens of the Great Barrier Reef as I sipped my morning coffee reminded me how lucky I was to be an Astronaut.  We had a wonderful teacher, Dr. Bill Muehlberger from the University of Texas in our early days of training.  He took us on field trips to show us what Earth looked like from ground...

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Funny Names

Funny Names

Many new worlds opened when I joined NASA in 1978: aviation, aviators, the military and their machines. It took a while to be able to tell the difference between an F-14 and an F-16 jet aircraft even though they were remarkably different.  Although I’d looked up the names of my classmates in our class of 35 before we gathered at the Johnson Space Center, many didn’t answer to the names that appeared on the list.  Almost half of our class came...

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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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