“Rocket Woman”: from space shuttle engineers to space historians


Linda (Getch) Dawson ’71 grew up during the height of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. She remembers driving to the observatory with her family and hearing the beep from the Soviet satellite Sputnik pass overhead. “It’s strange how your path changes, but I’ve always come back to that first love, aerospace,” she says. Dawson’s career took her from MIT to NASA, then pursued a second career as a teacher and writer, earning her the nickname “Rocket Woman” from her colleagues and journalists.

University of Washington Tacoma

Dawson says his “most exciting job to date” in aerospace was working as an aerodynamic flight controller at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. In the late 1970s, she was with the Navigation and Guidance Mission Control Group, which was responsible for ensuring that the space shuttle entered the atmosphere safely. She performed an “infinite simulation of astronauts and pilots” to determine the amount of fuel needed for the first flight, which causes the most serious obstacles. She was in charge of mission control during launch and reentry, and performed more simulations to define and redefine the shuttle flight rules as circumstances changed. “When I’m flying at supersonic and hypersonic speeds, everything happens so fast that I can’t afford to figure out in a book what to do if something goes wrong,” she says. She left NASA long before the Challenger and Colombian disasters showed how dangerous human spaceflight is, but shared her take on these tragedies in her first book a few years later. low.

After a mission with NASA and Boeing Aerospace, Dawson spent more than 20 years as a lecturer at Washington University Tacoma, where she designed a course in the science and history of space exploration with a woman of science. But she says. “I couldn’t find a reasonable one. [space] A book that satisfied what I thought should be covered in a condensed way – was it too technical or was it a children’s book. So Dawson decided to write herself. Politics and danger of space exploration (Springer, 2017, 2nd edition released this year) and Space war (Springer, 2018) Rethinking the history of space programs, we look at the complex modern politics of space exploration as various companies and countries compete for access and resources.

Retired from teaching, Dawson continues to write and speak at the longtime volunteer Seattle Aviation Museum. “There is a whole new generation of young people in the museum who want to take rocket lessons and learn more about space,” she says. “It’s exciting to see him.”

“Rocket woman”: from space shuttle engineers to space historians

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