“Rocket Women”: Space Shuttle Engineer to Space Historian

Linda (Getch) Dawson ’71 grew up during the height of the space race between the United States and the USSR. She remembers driving with her family to an observatory to hear the beeping of the Soviet satellite Sputnik as it passed overhead. “It’s funny how your path takes different turns, but I’ve always been back in this first love: aerospace,” she says. Dawson’s path took her from MIT to NASA, then in her second career as a teacher and writer, she earned the nickname “Rocket Woman” from colleagues and journalists.

University of Washington, Tacoma.

Dawson says his “most exciting job ever” in aerospace was working as an aerodynamic flight controller at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. It was the late 70’s, and she was in the Navigation and Guidance Mission Control Group that made sure the space shuttle entered space safely. It ran “endless simulations with astronauts and pilots” to determine how much fuel would be needed for the first flight, due to significant failures. She was on mission control during launch and re-entry, and as circumstances change, she runs further simulations to clarify and clarify the shuttle’s flight rules. “When you’re flying at supersonic and hypersonic speeds, everything happens so fast that you don’t have the luxury of looking at a book to know what to do if something goes wrong,” she says. He left NASA before the Challenger and Colombia disasters showed how dangerous human spaceflight can be – but will share his perspective on these tragedies in his first book years later.

After working at NASA and Boeing Aerospace, Dawson spent more than 20 years as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Washington, Tacoma, where she designed the history and science courses for women and space research in science. But, she says, “I couldn’t find any reason. [space] A book I am satisfied with that I think should be covered – it was either very technical or it was a children’s book. So Dawson decided to write his own. The politics and dangers of space exploration (Springer, 2017, with second edition this year) and. War in space (Springer, 2018) Explain the history of the space program and immerse yourself in the complex modern day politics of space research as different companies and countries compete for access and resources.

Retired from teaching, Dawson continues to write and lecture at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where he is a longtime volunteer. “The museum has a whole new generation of young people who still want to take rocket classes and learn about space,” she says. “It’s a pleasure to see.”

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