Kathryn Sullivan (pictured above) was born October 3, 1951, in Paterson, New Jersey. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz, in 1973 (the year before I was born). She then received a Doctorate in Geology from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1978.
Before she joined NASA, she pursued many academic interests. In 1971, she was an exchange student in Norway, and she participated in several oceanographic expeditions while in her doctoral studies. She even earned her private pilot's license in powered and glider aircraft.
January 16, 1978, NASA seelcted her, and she became an astronaut in August 1979. As NASA's third female astronaut, she took her first space flight on Challenger October 5, 1984. She had 7 crew mates (the largest astronaut crew yet--including the first female astronaut, Sally Ride). Sullivan made history on this mission when she and David Leetsma stepped into the cargo bay to practice some safety techniques. She became the first American woman to walk in space on this date in 1984, and her response was simply: "This is great; I love it."
She took two other space flights, and in August 1992, she left NASA. She went on to Chief Scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Her awards are plentiful, and she was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame May 1, 2004.
It is so nice to write about successful women such as Kathryn Sullivan. I can remember seeing footage of her walking in space, and being the impressionable, young child that I was, I didn't think this was terribly remarkable. I didn't appreciate the value of women's history until a few years ago when I set out to prove the women historians wrong. I soon discovered just how important women's history is. It has been overlooked for so many years--just like minority history has. Thankfully things are changing for women, and I think we owe a lot to strong women just like Kathryn Sullivan.
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