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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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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Real Hidden Figures

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....

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Challenger: Still There…

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...

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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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