Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, Educator Astronaut
Science teacher Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger left the classroom to become an astronaut three years ago. Now she returns to the classroom as a student. She completed the two-year astronaut candidate training in 2006 but continues to learn. She recently took classes in robotics, computer networking and Russian.
Metcalf-Lindenburger is an Educator Astronaut, which is a fully qualified astronaut who has expertise as a teacher. NASA's Educator Astronauts are Barbara Morgan, selected in 1998, and Joe Acaba, Ricky Arnold and Metcalf-Lindenburger, selected in 2004. Morgan will be the first Educator Astronaut to fly in space. She is a crewmember of the STS-118 shuttle mission, currently scheduled for August 8, 2007, aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour to continue assembly of the International Space Station.
Metcalf-Lindenburger's current assignment is supporting the implementation of technology for the station, as well as following the many systems on board the station. One project she supports will transition the computers on the space station to an Ethernet network. Metcalf-Lindenburger has worked on the project with astronaut Clay Anderson, who will launch with the crew of the STS-117 shuttle mission and join Expedition 15 on the space station. While on the station, Anderson will upgrade the station's network cables from coaxial cables to Ethernet cables.
"You kind of start to feel like a part of it," Metcalf-Lindenburger said of her experience following the acceptance of the hardware and the procedure development for the upcoming installation and transition. "Once you start getting involved in a project, you take ownership in it. Then to see it fly is rewarding."
Metcalf-Lindenburger is currently the youngest U.S. astronaut, selected when she was just 29 years old. Before becoming an astronaut, the now 31-year-old Colorado native taught high school-level Earth science and astronomy. She also coached cross country and the Science Olympiad. She has a bachelor's degree in geology, and is certified to teach science and history.
Her journey to NASA started with a question from a student asking how astronauts go to the bathroom in space. Metcalf-Lindenburger didn't know the answer and so turned to the Internet.
She not only found the answer to her student’s question, but stumbled upon information about NASA's search for Educator Astronauts. "An action that I was taking to impact them [her students] ended up impacting me," Metcalf-Lindenburger said.
She applied to NASA, describing the Educator Astronaut opportunity as "a combination of my dreams." She said she didn't really expect NASA to select her. Despite her doubts, she tried anyway; she had always told her students to reach for their dreams.
In addition to regular duties as mission specialists, Educator Astronauts help NASA in the development of new ways to connect space exploration with the classroom and inspire the next generation of explorers. This effort includes speaking to students. Metcalf-Lindenburger said she sometimes misses teaching young people and learning from their insightful questions. Attending schools' programs as a NASA representative is a good way to stay in touch with today's learners, she said.
NASA continues its tradition of investing in the nation's future by emphasizing three major education goals
-- attracting and retaining students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines; strengthening NASA and the nation's future workforce; and engaging Americans in NASA's mission. To compete effectively for the minds, imaginations and career ambitions of America's young people, NASA is focused on supporting formal and informal educators to engage and retain students in education efforts that encourage their pursuit of disciplines needed to achieve the Vision for Space Exploration.
STS-118 Shuttle Mission
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NASA Johnson Space Center
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Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services