History-making NASA astronaut retires

A history-making astronaut has officially retired, leaving in her wake a stream of firsts and records set.

According to the Associated Press, NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson has retired almost a year after her last and longest space flight. In her storied career, not only was Whitson the first woman to command the International Space Station, AP reports that she has “spent more time off the planet than any other American: 665 days over three space station missions,” not to mention that she’s “also the world’s most experienced female spacewalker, with 10 under her spacesuit belt.”

Joining NASA in 1986 as a researcher, AP says Whitson’s career highlights also include  serving as the only female chief of NASA’s “male-dominated astronaut corps,” as well as being the oldest woman to ever fly in space.

Director of flight operations at Johnson Space Center in Houston Brian Kelly explained Whitson’s impact in this way:

“She set the highest standards for human spaceflight operations, as well as being an outstanding role model for women and men in America and across the globe.”

As for Whitson, she took to Twitter to express how significant her time as a NASA astronaut has been, calling it “the greatest honor to live out my lifelong dream.”

New ‘American Girl’ doll an aspiring astronaut

Science, smarts and outerspace — that’s what the newest American Girl doll is bringing to girls around the world.

According to Good Housekeeping, American Girl has just unveiled its newest doll for 2018: 11-year-old Luciana Vega, a girl who dreams of being the first person to travel to Mars.

To craft the doll, GH says the company teamed up with NASA employees such as NASA Astronaut Dr. Megan McArthur Behnken, former NASA chief scientist Dr. Ellen Stofan, CEO of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Dr. Deborah Barnhart and the manager of strategic alliances at NASA Maureen O’Brien to accurately design “STEM-inspired outfits and accessories, including a flight and space suit fully equipped for intergalactic travel.”

Not only does the doll come ready for any space missions that may arise, GH reports that Luciana will also receive her own three-book series courtesy of Scholastic, which will detail her experiences as she receives a scholarship to go to Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama.

Katy Dickinson, president of American Girl, praised the newest addition to their collection as a “role model for today’s girls,” as she is “empowering them to defy stereotypes, embrace risks and failures, and chart their own course in life — whatever the goal.”

Luciana and all of her accessories became available on Jan. 1. You can shop the new doll here.

NASA opens research center in honor of ‘Hidden Figures’ inspiration

A hero finally had her place in history cemented — literally.

According to Refinery29, NASA honored Katherine Johnson, a “mathematician whose contributions to NASA’s early space missions were instrumental to its success” and the inspiration behind 2016’s Hidden Figures film, by placing her name on their research center. Called the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, Entertainment Weekly says the new building is part of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and was officially opened in a ceremony this past weekend.

In a pre-taped video, Refinery29 says Johnson shared how she felt about having a building named in her honor.

“You want my honest answer? I think they’re crazy,”  she said. “I was excited at something new, always liked something new, but give credit to everybody who helped. I didn’t do anything alone but try to go to the root of the question and succeeded there.”

Known as “the human computer” and a mathematician vital to launching John Glenn into space in 1962, Entertainment Weekly reports that Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe offered that while Johnson is not alone in her achievements, she is certainly a pioneer.

“You have been a trailblazer,” he said at the ceremony. “When I think of Virginia and the history of what we’ve gone through … you’re at the top of that list.”

Johnson’s work and those of her counterparts Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson were further immortalized in the film Hidden Figuresin which Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe portrayed the all-black, all-female mathematicians who shaped the trajectory of NASA’s space program.

 

 

NASA astronaut Epps to join International Space Station

One NASA astronaut is about to make history when she embarks on her journey to the International Space Station.

According to the Huffington Post, Jeanette Epps made history early in 2017 when she announced on Jan. 4 that she will become the first black American to serve in the International Space Station.

“While NASA has sent 14 black astronauts into space over the decades, none have ever stayed aboard the ISS as a crew member,” reports the Huffington Post. “Epps will be the first African American and the 13th woman to call the ISS home since the space station was founded in 1998.”

An astronaut since 2009, HuffPost says Epps will serve as a flight engineer on Expedition 56, which is slated for May 2018, and will remain on staff for Expedition 57. Preparing Epps for her future at the space station is her PhD in aerospace engineering, says HuffPost, as well as her time as a NASA Graduate Student Researchers Project fellow — what’s more is that she’s served for seven years as technical intelligence officer for the Central Intelligence Agency.

The best part: HuffPost says NASA made the announcement of Epps’ mission just before the wide release of Hidden Figures, which “tells the story of three black women who played pivotal roles in NASA’s successful attempt to put astronaut John Glenn into orbit in 1962.”

Epps wil surely make them proud.

 

Flying into history

NASA’s Peggy Whitson may have just taken off on a mission to the International Space Station, but the astronaut isn’t just flying into outer space — she’s flying into history.

According to Women in the World, she became the oldest woman (at the age of 56) to embark on a mission into space on Thursday, Nov. 17, beating out previous record holder Barbara Morgan, who made the journey in 2007 at the age of 55.

But that’s not the only way Whitson made history. She is also “the first woman to ever assume control of the ISS for a second time — in 2007, when Whitson first took control of the space station, she became the first woman ever to do so,” reports Women in the World.

Witnessing her history -making mission were fellow astronauts Oleg Novitskiy of Russia and Thomas Pesquet of France, who Women in the World says represented the European Space agency.

 

The ‘Hidden Figures’ that launched NASA

Women can do anything — from holding successful careers to solving complex problems to competing in sports or raising a family, women can do whatever they set their minds to. And with the impending release of a new film, audiences around the United States (and around the world) get to witness just how historically true this is.

Meet the women who helped launch the first astronauts into space: Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson and Dorothy Vaughn, whose stories will be portrayed on the silver screen by Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer respectively in the upcoming film Hidden Figures.

Glamour reports that the film finally sheds light on the unsung heroes and brilliant mathematicians who not only “helped launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit back in 1962,” but also “battled the pervasive sexism and racism of the era at the same time.”

Based on the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Racewhich will go on sale on Sept. 6the film will hit theaters in January 2017, according to IMDb.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on the book or watch the film, you can preorder the title here and watch the trailer here.