Tag Archives: wednesday geek woman


Wednesday Geek Woman: Denise Paolucci, founder of Dreamwidth

This is a guest post by Elizabeth. Elizabeth is a multivariate geek who blogs at elliemurasaki@dreamwidth and who also posts to Affairs Magazine and The Slacktiverse.

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Dreamwidth "swirly d" logo

Denise, in collaboration with Mark Smith (at first) and a plethora of mostly-female coders, launched Dreamwidth in 2009. Dreamwidth is a social journaling platform and a code fork of LiveJournal; differences between the services are listed here. The service is committed to accessibility, to diversity, and to being open-source and ad-free.

Photo of Denise Paolucci, facing away from camera

Denise is also an author, published under ‘Denise McCune’ in the Finding the Way and Changing the World collections of Valdemar stories, and an artisan, whose jewelry and stitch markers can be found at the Faultless Pajama Foundry on Etsy.

Dreamwidth: Denise’s official blog

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Photograph of Jill Bolte Taylor giving her TED talk

Wednesday Geek Woman: Jill Bolte Taylor, brain scientist and stroke survivor

This is a guest post by Kelly Seiler. Kelly blogs at Undercover Feminist. She is an electrical engineer working on the avionics for an unmanned airplane.

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

I first heard of Jill Bolte Taylor as a result of watching the free entertainment (which happened to be TED talks) on a Virgin Flight. I was rivited by her story. She recounts her experiences including the moment where she realizes she was having a stroke (10:35 mark):

“Oh my gosh! I’m having a stroke! I’m having a stroke! Wow! This is so cool. This is so cool. How many brain scientists have the opportunity to study their own brain from the inside out? But, I’m a very busy woman! I don’t have time for a stroke!”

Photograph of Jill Bolte Taylor giving her TED talk

Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk, by Steve Jurvetson

Jill is an inspiration to me in so many ways. While still recovering her memories she taught a highly technical class. She stayed just ahead of the students in learning the material. Amazing!

If you haven’t heard of Jill, check out her TED talk where she recounts the morning of the stroke and it’s aftermath. She also spreads a wonderful message of letting go and living in the moment… she asks that we “Step to the Right” of our left hemisphere brain chatter – a reference to the profound peace and nirvana she experienced as she lost the function of the left half of her brain.

Her TED Talk: My Stroke of Insight
On the web: My Stroke of Insight
For an in depth look at Jill’s story check out her book: My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey

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Wednesday Geek Woman: Maud Menten, medical researcher

This is a guest post by Ingrid. Ingrid looks at the entire world from an evolutionary perspective and sometimes remembers to post stuff to Dreamwidth.

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Photograph of Maud MentenMaud Menten was one of the first Canadian women to receive a medical doctorate, in 1911. Women could not do research in Canada in those days, so she sailed alone across the Atlantic to work at Leonor Michaelis’ lab in Berlin. During her year there, they developed the first model and equation to describe enzyme kinetics, the Michaelis-Menten equation. She worked for many years as a teacher and researcher at Pittsburg, making more important discoveries – she was the first to separate proteins by electrophoresis, and altogether, could lay claim to being the mother of biochemistry.

She was hard-working, determined and persistent, despite lack of recognition – her contributions to medical science exceed that of many Nobel laureates, and she was only made full professor a year before she retired. She also studied languages, music and painting, and did mountaineering. Today, she is surprisingly unknown, even by biochemists (I learnt the Michaelis-Menten equation early in my undergraduate biochemistry courses but only found out that Menten was a women significantly later), and I’d like to rectify that a bit.

Wikipedia: Maud Menten
Rebecca Skloot (2000) Some called her Miss Menten
Canadian Medical Hall of Fame: Dr. Maud Menten (includes 4min YouTube documentary)

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Photograph of Branca Edmée Marques

Wednesday Geek Woman: Branca Edmée Marques, Portuguese scientist, and collaborator with Marie Curie

This is a guest post by Jennifer. Jennifer is a feminist and actuary who is travelling the world with her family and profiling notable women of history on her blog.

This entry is cross-posted from Jennifer’s blog.

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Photograph of Branca Edmée MarquesBranca Edmée Marques was a Portuguese scientist, who studied and worked with Marie Curie. She was born in Lisbon in 1899, and studied chemistry at the University of Lisbon. In 1925 after completing her degree, she was invited to be an Assistant by the Chemistry Professor. He was concerned about whether she would maintain discipline in her classes, being female, but she must have succeeded as in 1930 she was awarded a scholarship to study with Marie Curie at the Sorbonne, in Paris.

Marie Curie was by then very famous, having won two Nobel Prizes. Curie liked her work so much that she gave her one of her most interesting research projects to do, and wrote a letter to the Portuguese government asking them to renew her research grant.

Unfortunately the combination of Marques being a woman, and the Portuguese government being in a state of flux (transforming from military to civilian dictatorship) meant that her grant wasn’t renewed. Curie managed to finagle a continuing scholarship for her anyway, and her doctorate on “new research on the fragmentation of barium salts” was awarded with the highest possible rating of tres honorable. In 1936, the Portuguese Universities recognized the degree, and awarded her an equivalent doctorate.

On returning home, however, she was unable to get an appropriate post at University. This, from all my sources, does appear to be fairly simple sexism, even if the lack of financial support in France might not have been. Instead, she lectured and started up the Laboratory of Radiochemistry and only in 1942 was she awarded the title of First Assistant, which meant that the University was recognizing her contribution more significantly.

Photograph of Branca Edmée Marques
She continued to lecture and work towards building up a new department, which eventually became the Department of Radiochemistry and Nuclear Chemistry. She published regularly throughout her professional life, researching many aspects of peaceful application of nuclear technology. In 1966, her contributions were finally recognized with a full professorship at the University of Lisbon.

She died in 1986, at the age of 87.

This post is based on Portuguese language sources (linked below) so anyone who can read the original Portuguese, please feel free to comment if my interpretations were wrong!

Marcas das ciências e das técnicas: Professora Branca Edmée Marques
A ciência em Portugal: Branca Edmée Marques
Maxima: Sancha Sanches

Painting of a horse in Lascaux Cave

Wednesday Geek Woman: Annette Laming-Emperaire, archaeologist

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Born in 1917, Annette Laming-Emperaire was a graduate student at the Sorbonne when she began to study Paleolithic cave paintings (like this one from Lascaux.)

Although during her life her brilliance was always apparent, her great originality seems to have burst into being like a fire. La signification turned out to be that most rare beast, a graduate thesis that changed an entire discipline.

All quotes are from The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists, by Gregory Curtis.

In this thesis, which became a 1962 book, Laming-Emperaire summarized the discovery of Paleolithic art and the methods proposed so far for dating it. Then she looked at various interpretations of the art that scholars had suggested over the years: that the paintings evoked hunting magic; that they were fertility symbols; that they represented the totems of tribes.

Then she dismissed it all.

All of this, the whole body of work dedicated to explaining cave art, sixty years of consistent effort by many brilliant minds, she sweeps aside.

For Laming-Emperaire, all the research that had come before her – all of it – was fatally flawed because it depended on ethnography…. Laming-Emperaire said researchers “indiscriminately invoke facts from some societies that, by their social, religious or economic structure, can be very different from prehistoric societies – about which we know practically nothing in any case – and that are often very different among themselves.”

Painting of a horse in Lascaux Cave

For the time of writing, Laming-Emperaire was making a distinctly 21st century point. She had harsh words for her predecessor, the abbé Breuil, who in his discussion of masks in the paintings had invoked Paleo-Siberians, the Inuit peoples, Native Americans from North and South America, the bushmen of South Africa and Australian tribes in turn – conveniently glossing over the fact that in each of these societies, the masks mean different things. The bushmen use them for hunting; the Native Americans use them for sacred dances and the Australian Aboriginal people use them to represent gods and ancestors. Different cultures are different from one another. Breuil’s argument tells us nothing whatever about the Paleolithic painters.

Laming-Emperaire went further. Such comparisons, she said, are inherently arbitrary. An archaeologist forms a hypothesis about an artifact, then trawls the monographs of ethnology for evidence that supports his view. Confirmation bias might as well be built into the process.

What, then, are our options? If we can’t use arguments from existing cultures to shed light on cave paintings, how else might we bring the Paleolithic painters back to life? As Laming-Emperaire saw it, our options exist on a spectrum between rigorous empiricism – exact and objective enumeration of places, shapes and sizes – and prehistorical fiction – just making stuff up. The discipline, she said, had been oscillating between these poles: “sclerotic rigor on one side, a lively but unreliable creation on the other.” In the rest of La signification, she tried to show another way forward.

We can know only three things (she argued) about a prehistoric artifact: how it was made; any signs of use; and where it was found. The methods of painting cave art are interesting, but they don’t shed much light on what the paintings mean. Nor is it helpful to look for signs of use, since in the vast majority of cases there simply aren’t any.

What she proposed, instead, was to look at where the paintings are. Instead of allowing our preconceptions and prejudices to blind us, Laming-Emperaire called us to pay attention to what is in front of our eyes. She drew diagrams of the cave walls illustrating what species were represented and which way they faced. By carefully inventorying each scene, she began to identify paintings that might represent the same scene: a bison in a trap, surrounded by horses; a man threatened by a bison.

If she is right, these scenes are the oldest messages in human history, communicating across tens of millennia. And this hypothesis is based not upon idle speculation, but upon rigorous scholarship. Not surprisingly, Laming-Emperaire’s own legacy changed archeology, and her influence endures.

This audacious graduate student is saying it’s time to leave the thinking and the methods of the past behind and march in the manner she prescribes into the future.

And, broadly speaking, that is exactly what happened. The goals and expectations are rather different, and the techniques, particularly those using computer graphics, are more sophisticated, but detailed inventories and comparisons like those she first suggested remain at the heart of the study of Paleolithic art.

Wikipedia: Annette Laming-Emperaire

Ada Lovelace portrait in woodcut style

Wednesday Geek Woman: submissions thread preparing for Ada Lovelace Day!

Our Wednesday Geek Woman series of profiles has been on partial hiatus for half a year or so, but we’d like to have a run of profiles leading up to Ada Lovelace Day on the 7th October. Depending on submission volume it may also run as a regular feature again.

Wednesday Geek Woman is like Ada Lovelace Day only throughout the year. Most of our submissions are by guest posters, and these posts allow you to submit entries to the series.

Submit your profile of a geek woman in (hidden) comments here and selected ones will be posted (perhaps lightly edited) on Wednesdays. Here’s what to include:

  1. Optional: a quick one sentence bio paragraph about yourself, with any links you want. For example: Mary is a humble geek blogger and you can find her at <a href="http://geekfeminism.org/">geekfeminism.org</a&gt; Notes:
    • if this bio line is missing, you will be assumed to want to be anonymous. This applies even if you put a name and URL in the comment field.
    • don’t feel pressured into revealing things about yourself you don’t want to. A pseudonymous, mysterious, vague or simple bio is fine.
  2. Compulsory: two or more parapraphs describing your geek woman, ideally including why you admire her in particular.
  3. Optional: links to her biography, her Wikipedia page, and so on.
  4. Optional: agreement that your post can be used under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (posts that have this can be used in the Geek Feminism wiki).

See previous posts for examples.

Here’s a form you could copy and paste into comments:

My bio (one sentence only, optional):

Name or pseudonym of the geek woman I am submitting:

A few words summarising the woman’s geek accomplishments (for example “AI researcher” or “discoverer of supernova” or “engine mechanic”):

My post about this woman (two or more paragraphs):

Links to this woman elsewhere (optional):

[Please delete this line if you don't agree!] I agree to licence my post under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Notes on things we do welcome:

  • a broad definition of ‘geek’: crafters, writers, community organisers, scientists, hackers and creators all welcome
  • profiles submitted by anyone, including men
  • multiple submissions by the same person are fine, so if you’ve submitted before, or you’ve already submitted this time, no problem!
  • famous geek women: no geek woman is too well-known for this series unless we’ve featured her before. If more than one person submits the same woman to this round, their profiles will be combined.
  • living women
  • historical women
  • women who use pseudonyms
  • profiles you’ve published elsewhere (as long as you kept the right to allow us to republish it), for example, an Ada Lovelace Day post you made in previous years. If your piece has appeared at another URL, please give us that URL.

We may not publish your profile if it falls into these categories:

  • there are lots of geek women past and present, so for now we will not be re-posting a woman subject who has already been featured. See previously posted women. (Exception: if the woman was featured as part of a group profile, an individual profile is fine.)
  • profiles of women, especially living women, who don’t have some kind of public profile, which might include things like a public blog, a professional homepage with a professional bio, an academic homepage listing her publications, a Wikipedia page with her biography. It’s fine if she’s not famous, but we don’t want to highlight someone who’d rather not have a Web presence at all.
  • profiles of fictional women
  • per How Not to Do Ada Lovelace Day, profiles of women focussed on them being a supportive life-helper to a man geek will not be accepted (collaborative geeking with men of course accepted)
  • this really shouldn’t need to be said, but your post should be about the woman’s geeking, not about her appearance or personal life

Want some inspiration? Check the Geek Feminism wiki for women in science, women in computer science, women in Open Source and other women in geek culture collections.


Wednesday Geek Woman: Frances Oldham Kelsey, FDA reviewer of thalidomide

In the absence of doctors’ records, it can never be known how many babies died in the U.S. because of thalidomide’s “clinical trials”; Dr. Lenz estimated that in forty percent of cases where there was fetal exposure, the infant died in its first year. Eleven women (or perhaps more) gave birth to thalidomide babies in the U.S., but there may have been many more whose parents never discovered that their children’s malformations were caused by Kevadon. It is unbearable to speculate upon how many more might have been born but for the singular obduracy of Frances Kelsey.

All quotes are from Dark Remedy: The Impact of Thalidomide and Its Revival as a Vital Medicine, by Trent Stephens and Rock Brynner.

Black and white photograph of Frances Oldham Kelsey

Frances Oldham Kelsey

This is the story of a woman who saved countless lives and protected any number of babies from grievous harm, using nothing but science and her own strength of character.

Born Frances Kathleen Oldham on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, she studied at McGill before moving to the new Pharmacology department at the University of Chicago (which accepted her on the assumption that she was a man.) At Chicago she developed an interest in teratogens and earned her Ph.D. and M.D. She also met and married Dr. F. Ellis Kelsey. When he was appointed special assistant to the surgeon general, the Kelseys moved to Washington, D.C.

Frances Kelsey worked for the AMA reading doctors’ testimonials for various drugs, and she and her colleagues could soon detect among them the well-paid hacks for Big Pharma. It turned out to be excellent training for her appointment in 1960 to the Food and Drug Administration as one of only seven full-time and four part-time physicians reviewing applications to approve new drugs.

A week after she reported for work, the application for thalidomide landed on her desk. Her first assignment! The drug had already been approved in Canada and more than 20 countries in Europe and Africa. Another person might have rubber-stamped it. Kelsey did not.

The first thing Kelsey noticed as she examined the four-volume application from Richardson-Merrell was the names of the doctors – including that of Dr. Ray Nulsen of Cincinnati, Ohio – whose testimonials were included with the application: many were the same hacks she remembered from her time at the AMA… the mere presence of those names did not bode well for the application in Frances Kelsey’s eyes. In fact, as she looked through the application, she found it wanting in many respects.

The chronic toxicity studies had not run for long enough. There wasn’t enough data about absorption and excretion. The animal studies and clinical trials were not detailed enough and there wasn’t enough documentation. What documentation there was, was troubling. Humans responded to thalidomide by lapsing into a deep sleep, but rats did not. Worse, no lethal dose could be found for rats. That made it possible that rats weren’t absorbing the drug at all, while humans were. If that were the case, the animal studies shed no light on possible toxicity to humans.

Despite all this, Kelsey had no grounds for rejecting the application. Instead, she told the company she needed more and better data before she could take any action. In fact, she stalled. She declared the application incomplete and thus ineligible for submission fifty-eight days after it was submitted. That meant it would have to be resubmitted, giving her an extra sixty days to think about it.

You can imagine how much this delighted the pharmaceutical company.

But when Richardson-Merrell pressured her, the medical officer did not budge.

Richardson-Merrell subjected Kelsey to a withering siege of professional aggravation, provocation and intimidation. Altogether she chronicled fifty-one exchanges with the company, when there should have been none.

The company’s scientific officer, Dr. F. Joseph Murray, got her name and phone number (which he shouldn’t have had) and bombarded her with calls. What data did she need? How could the patient instructions be reworded? Could he submit revisions casually, over the phone (thus leaving no paper trail)? How about if he shared data with her privately, rather than in the formal application?

Kelsey rejected the second application as incomplete.

In February, 1961, Kelsey read the first reports of thalidomide causing peripheral neuropathy in the British Medical Journal. She challenged Murray with it. He admitted that Richardson-Merrell had known of the reports, and offered to add a warning to the drug’s packet insert. No dice. Despite the nerve damage issue, Richardson-Merrell wanted to declare the drug safe for use in pregnancy. But, Kelsey argued, if thalidomide could cause nerve damage in adults, how could the company prove that it would not cross the placental barrier and cause even worse damage to a fetus?

Testing this would take years and cost untold money. Richardson-Merrell was disinclined.

Kelsey required the company to resubmit the application six times. Richardson-Merrell tried to go over her head, but she stood her ground.

On November 18, 1961, the first statements came out of Germany about birth defects attributable to thalidomide. On November 29, the drug was removed from the German market.

On March 8, 1962, Richardson-Merrell withdrew its application.

On August 8, President Kennedy gave Frances Oldham Kelsey the President’s Award for Distinguished Federal Civilian Service, the highest honour given to a civilian. As well he might. At least 4000 children in Europe were born affected by the drug. Kelsey’s rigour averted a similar tragedy in the USA.

Dr. Kelsey’s contribution,

wrote Senator Carey Kefauver,

flows from a rare combination of factors: a knowledge of medicine, a knowledge of pharmacology, a keen intellect and inquiring mind, the imagination to connect apparently isolated bits of information, and the strength of character to resist strong pressures.

Anyone for a Geek Feminist manifesto?

She became an American hero, gracing the cover of Life magazine, receiving and answering hundreds of letters, and then quietly returning to her job of protecting the public’s health.

In fact, for her next trick, Kelsey helped reform the FDA.

Wikipedia: Frances Oldham Kelsey

Ellen Ochoa simulates an emergency egress

Wednesday Geek Woman: Ellen Ochoa, engineer and NASA astronaut

This is a guest post by L. Minter. L. Minter is a blogger at Feminist Book Club and Constituent Riposte.

Ellen Ochoa portrait in spacesuit

Ellen Ochoa

Ellen grew up in La Mesa, California where she received a B.S. degree in Physics from San Diego State University. She went on to Stanford University where she earned a M.S. and doctorate in Electrical Engineering.

During her doctorate and a little while after, she studied optical information processing. She is the co-inventor for an optical inspection system, an optical object recognition method, and method of removing noise from images. She was the chief of the Intelligent Systems Technology Branch at NASA Ames Research Center where she supervised many engineers and scientists on aerospace computational research. She has also published many papers in scientific journals.

In 1990, Dr. Ochoa was selected to be an astronaut for NASA’s space shuttle program. On her first mission in 1993 aboard the shuttle Discovery, she conducted a 9 day study of solar and atmospheric activity on Earth’s climate where she used the Remote Manipulator System to release and capture the Spartan sattelite.

Ellen Ochoa simulates an emergency egress

Ellen Ochoa simulates an emergency egress (photo by NASA, public domain)

On her second mission in 1994, Dr. Ochoa was the Payload Commander for the Atlantis Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science. For this mission, she studied the sun’s irradiance changes and the effect that it has on Earth’s environment. Again, Dr. Ochoa used the RMS to retrieve the research satellite.

Her third mission, aboard Discovery in 1999 was to perform the first docking for the International Space Station. She coordinated the delivery of 4 tons of supplies to prepare for the first crew to live on the station.

On Dr. Ochoa’s last mission in 2002, aboard the Atlantis, she visited the International Space Station and used the RMS to not only install the SO Truss, but also to move space walkers around the station. This was the first time this was done.

Ellen was the first Latina woman to enter space. She has received numerous NASA, science, and engineering awards. She is currently the Deputy Director of the Johnson Space Center.

Wikipedia: Ellen Ochoa
NASA: Astronaut bio: Ellen Ochoa

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Photograph of Charlie McCord, with her reflection

Wednesday Geek Woman: Charlie McCord, student of biomechanics and fish feeding

This is a guest post by Maya. This entry originally appeared at the Project Exploration blog.

Charlie McCord is a PhD candidate in biology at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on biomechanics in fish feeding and the morphology of fish jaws. She works in the Field Museum’s Biodiversity Synthesis Center.

Photograph of Charlie McCord, with her reflection

Charlie McCord © C. McCord, used with permission

Charlie grew up in Ojai, California. As a child, Charlie says she was “a bit of a tomboy” who loved being outside. She was always interested in science, but she initially leaned more towards writing and the performing arts. She credits her high school AP Physics teacher with inspiring her by emphasizing the creativity inherent in science.

After graduating from high school, Charlie went to UCLA to study ecology, behavior, and evolutionary biology. It was a big change for her; the university was almost eight times larger than her entire hometown. Getting involved with community service projects such as peer counseling and mentoring helped her “gain the confidence I needed to succeed.”

Charlie is currently studying organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago. She has completed her master’s degree and is now a PhD candidate. Her research focus is primarily biomechanics, and she studies “the evolution of jaw form and function in triggerfishes and filefish.” Spending time with the collections of the Field Musem allows her to study the morphology of a broad range of fish jaws. Charlie works closely with the Field Museum, and as part of their “ongoing effort to better understand the biodiversity of life,” she has had the opportunity to travel with museum staff on several specimen collecting missions. “I’ve become quite the experienced SCUBA diver and spear fisherwoman!” she says.

Charlie finds the independence of doctoral research both challenging and rewarding. “You are coming up with experiments and questions that no one has ever done before, which can be very frustrating,” she says. She describes her committee of advisors as “wonderful,” but adds that “at the end of the day, what work I put in parallels how much data I can produce and how quickly my research progresses. This aspect is also the most rewarding, though. I know that whatever results I find are my own; it was the combined effort of the experiments I designed and the data I analyzed that produced them.”

Travel is another part of work that Charlie enjoys. In addition to going on expeditions with the Field Museum, she is spending the summer in Taipei, Taiwan as part of her National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Island Summer Institute Fellowship. Charlie was one of around 200 American students to receive the fellowship, and she says she feels very honored. While abroad, she is working on a project of her choice at the Academia Sinica.

Charlie also likes sharing science with young people. She has been working with Sisters4Science for three years and appreciates the variety of science subjects covered. “I don’t think I’ve given the same program twice since starting!” she says. Charlie has also worked with the Junior Paleontologist program and IGERT Explorers. She enjoys the opportunity to introduce her research to high school and middle school students in ways they can relate to. But the students aren’t the only ones learning. “I’ve also tackled various subjects that are not my expertise,” Charlie explains. “Learning new things to a degree that I can teach them is good practice for me.”

Asked what she’d say to an aspiring scientist, Charlie had this advice:

“Ask questions and be observant! Ther are so many exciting fields in science and SO so many unanswered questions that need fresh, young minds to ponder them. When you start thinking scientifically, it fundamentally changes the way you perceive the world around you. I think this is especially true for biomechanists and functional morphologists. You see the way things move, the way they interact with other organisms and their surroundings, and it is truly inspiring. You want to know how and why animals do what they do, and these fields give you the tools to be able to figure it out.”

Charlie is still putting together her website, but you can read about the lab she works in at http://biosync.fieldmuseum.org/users/mwestneat.

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Sandra Magnus exercises in the Destiny Module on the ISS, in zero gravity

Wednesday Geek Woman special edition: Sandra Magnus, STS-135, and the end of the shuttle program

Back-to-back American astronauts, yes. Special occasion! This is by request, from deborah on July 7:

Sandra Magnus is flying on the last NASA space shuttle launch tomorrow– how about a quick hit about her? And about being sad about the space shuttle. :-(

Space Shuttle Atlantis en route to launchpad

Space Shuttle Atlantis en route to launchpad. Image by NASA, public domain.

We’re a little late to the party, so I’m scheduling this entry for about twelve hours prior to the end of the mission: landing is scheduled at 21 July 2011 9:56 UTC.

Sandra Magnus has a PhD in materials science and engineering and has worked on stealth aircraft design. This is Magnus’s 4th Shuttle mission, but third trip into space: she spent 134 days in orbit between November 2008 and March 2009, travelling to the International Space Station on STS-126 and returning on STS-119.

Sandra Magnus exercises in the Destiny Module on the ISS, in zero gravity

Sandra Magnus exercises aboard the ISS, March 2009. Image by NASA, public domain.

STS-135 is the 33rd mission for Space Shuttle Atlantis, and the final mission of the Shuttle program. See NASA’s video of the launch. NASA TV will be showing coverage of STS-135 throughout the planned landing.