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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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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