Friday, March 4, 2016

Girl Scout Astronauts

It's Women's History Month, and that means celebrating all the awesomeness of the X Chromosome! I was raised in scouting, so I wanted to kick off the March blogging with the space-faring scouts. Did you know that, according to NASA and GSUSA, over 90% of female astronauts report being former Girl Scouts/Girl Guides? Yes!! More of this, please. 
I'm often asked how I acquired the random and varied skills I have in my bag-o-tricks, and my reply is a shy shrug and "girl scouts?" I can't even tell you in a blog post everything I learned from scouting.
I joined the Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay as a Daisy, and never looked back. I graduated high school a Senior Girl Scout and Gold Award Honoree (our version of the Eagle Scout Award, if you don't know). Until this year, I was an adult volunteer, and a co-leader for several different troops from State College to Orlando. I lived outdoors in all weather more than I care to count, including an entire summer VOLUNTARILY as a counselor at my council's resident camp. I am the successful leader I am today because of what I learned in my youth as a scout, and the countless women in the organization who mentored me. 
If the bodacious femmes of microgravity learned half as much as I did, they were clearly the shoe-in candidates. I'm just saying old school girl scouting gave you mad skills.

So you might ask, who are some of these boundary-breakers you so clearly adore, Brandi? Well, I'm going to highlight some of them and one or two of their extra-astronaut accomplishments: 

We have to start with the Goddess of American Astronauts, Dr. Sally Ride. *prostrates* The first American woman in space (albeit 20 years after the first woman - sigh), Sally was among the first minority astronauts selected in 1978 (dubbed the "Thirty-Five New Guys"): women along with Black- and Asian-Americans, as well as being non-military. Her first flight was STS-7 aboard the Orbiter Challenger on June 18, 1983. She flew again on Challenger on STS-41G, and served on the Rogers Commission investigating the Challenger's disaster in 1986, as well as the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003. She also founded NASA's Office of Exploration. She's the founder of initiatives such as Sally Ride Science, which serves to inspire youth, especially girls, in STEM. Whenever you read a book on the TFNGs, they tell you Sally Ride didn't take any of those guys' junk. She was out to prove herself, and pave a way for women.

Dr. Katheryn Sullivan was also selected in Astronaut Selection Group 8 (1978). She performed the first American Female EVA (this time only 3 months after the *first* woman) on STS-41G. She was part of the crew to deploy Hubble from Discovery on STS-31, as well as a science mission on STS-45 on Atlantis. Apart from her career at NASA, she is also an oceanographer by training, and that was her career in Alaska prior to joining the Astronaut Corps. While at NASA, she joined the Navy Reserves as an oceanographer, retiring in 2006. She has also served at NOAA as Chief Scientist, and currently serves as NOAA's Administrator and the Department of Commerce's Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere.

Two former scouts that served aboard the ill-fated STS-51L on January 28, 1986 were Judy Resnik, of Astronaut Selection Group 8, and Christa McAuliffe, the "first" Teacher In Space. This was to be Judy's second flight, her first was aboard Discovery August 30, 1984 on STS-41D. Judy was the first Jewish woman to go into space. She was one of the recruits of the famous Nichelle Nichols (as well as fellow Challenger crewmate Ron McNair). While working toward her Ph.D. in electrical engineering, she worked at NIH as a biomed engineer.
Christa was the selected candidate from the 1985 Teacher In Space Program out of over 11,000 completed teacher applications. Christa was a social studies teacher, and even self-designed a course called "The American Woman." She had some amazing planned classes while on mission, including "the ultimate field trip" - a tour of the shuttle with lessons.

"Hailing Frequencies Open!" Dr. Mae Jemison, blazed a path to the stars for minority girl scouts on board Endeavour's STS-47 in 1992. She began her career as a practicing M.D., traveling to Cuba, Kenya, and Thailand in Medical School. She also served as a doctor in the Peace Corps in Liberia and Sierra Leone. She was a scientist by trade, but an artist at heart. An avid dancer and actor, building a dance studio in her home, and appearing on Star Trek: The Next Generation. She founded her own company that develops science and technology for everyday use, as well as a foundation named after her mother, sparking projects such as the international science camp The Earth We Share.

Col. Eileen Collins was the first woman to both pilot and command the space shuttle. Her NASA experience includes her "first female pilot" flight on STS-63 Discovery, as well as STS-84 Atlantis, both part of the Shuttle-Mir Program. She commanded her first shuttle mission with STS-93 Columbia, overseeing the deployment of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Also, she commanded the STS-114 Discovery "Return to Flight" after the Columbia Disaster, performing the first rendezvous pitch maneuver.  Other than her NASA experience, she was the second female Air Force test pilot, and was a flight instructor for the T-38, C-141, and T-41 (the last while she taught at the USAF Academy).

I could go on and on with this post, and maybe I will do a second post later in the month. But for now, if there are any current young scouts reading, you should know that, from these brief examples alone, you can come from various backgrounds and have an interest in a wide variety of things, and still attain great accomplishments. Don't let it limit you from a lofty goal. These women were determined in what they loved, and didn't let anyone stop them.