Friday, October 19, 2007
Tuesday will be the first launch attempt for STS-120, helmed by only the second female commander in shuttle history. She will also be the last, as there are no other Feminine Americans qualified to command the shuttle, and none coming down the pike before the shuttle is retired in 2010.
Commander Melroy's career is especially interesting to me because we share an alma mater. I think it's incredibly cool that we had the same astronomy professor, Dr. Priscilla Benson, though presumably Commander Melroy got more out of the course than I did, seeing as how she has had the chance to experience some of its concepts in their real-life applications.
I know it's kind of cheesy to identify too closely with public figures based on simple demographic facts like gender, but I do think it's cool for little girls to get to see a shuttle commander with a ponytail. None of the first batch of female astronauts were qualified to be pilots because the military still didn't allow women to fly. But Commander Melroy was a navy test pilot, no less, the old-school Right-Stuff route to getting to fly NASA's spacecraft.
She says that her goal is to be the next astronaut to set foot on the moon. I hope she does; it will be an even bigger feather in our alma mater's cap than getting the 44th presidency of the United States.