It was announced this week that Shannon Lucid will be inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame in May 2014, along with former NASA member, Jerry Ross. This will increase the number of inductees to 87, seven of which are women. It is also a major step forward for women astronauts, as they are severely underrepresented in the space industry.
Shannon Lucid, with a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, has completed five space missions, and in 1996 received the Space Medal of Honor for her work on the Russian space station, Mir. She was the first woman in history to achieve this award and remains the only woman to have ever worked on Mir. Lucid worked 188 days on Mir as Board Engineer 2 on life and physical science experiments.
During her career, Lucid became Chief Scientist at NASA headquarters. Afterward she served as a CAPCOM in Mission Control, communicating with a team of astronauts in space and aiding them in their missions. Lucid retired from NASA after a life filled with accomplishments in January 2012.
Described by her colleagues as a “model astronaut,” Lucid admits that her success had many barriers because of her gender. At the age of 17, she wrote to Time magazine asking why females were not accepted into NASA’s early astronaut program. At the time, NASA did not have any female astronauts, so it seemed a feat almost too far out of reach for any women to continue working towards.
Lucid also spoke of how she was discouraged in applying to graduate school after one of her professors told her she would have a very hard time getting a job because women were not taken “seriously” when applying for professional careers. Unfortunately, Lucid experienced this firsthand, when she had trouble getting a job as a pilot, despite the fact that she had the proper license. She was told by companies quite frankly that they do not hire women. Of her experiences, Lucid says, “Basically, all my life I’d been told you can’t do that because you’re female. So I guess I just didn’t pay any attention. I just went ahead and did what I could and then, when the stars aligned, I was ready.”
When Lucid began her career with NASA in 1978, she was a member of the first class of women ever admitted. Seven years later, she went on her first mission STS-51G aboard the Discovery on June 17, 1985. At one point later in her career, she also once held the record for the most flight hours in orbit by a female astronaut, 223 days. She is well respected at NASA. Peggy Whitson, chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, comments: “Shannon is an extraordinary woman and scientist. She paved the way for so many of us.”
This May, Lucid and Ross will join other highly regarded former astronauts such as Alan Shepard, John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, John Young and Sally Ride in an extremely prestigious organization.
Dan Brandenstein, chairman of the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation, seems to reflect sentiments of other members of the board selecting inductees when stating: “Shannon Lucid and Jerry Ross are extraordinary astronauts who made history as very important and frequent crew members in shuttle missions.“
Lucid’s career and accomplishments will help inspire others to work towards their goals. Fellow astronaut, John Fabian praises Lucid for overcoming her barriers, saying “kids don’t realize what opportunities really lie ahead of them. Some are very quick to worry about the disadvantages that they have in their own lives, or as they perceive in their own lives, and I think the Shannon Lucid story is just a great story about overcoming obstacles and blasting through ceilings and knocking down doors and never letting anything get in the way of doing the things that you believe are right.”
By Lian Morrison