Lesley Lee grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Upper St. Clair High School south of Pittsburgh. She attended Penn State University, where she earned her B.S. degree in exercise science, then earned a Master’s degree in exercise physiology/cardiac rehabilitation at Virginia Tech. She started her NASA career at Johnson Space Center (JSC) in 1994, near the start of the U.S.-Russian “Shuttle-Mir” program, in which U.S. astronauts flew their first long duration missions on the Russian space station Mir. In this position, she coordinated medical tests and life sciences experiments for astronauts and cosmonauts, and in total supported 32 space shuttle missions, 4 long-duration Mir missions in Russia, and 12 long-duration International Space Station crews. She also spent 2 years doing research in JSC’s Cardiovascular Laboratory, and since 2006 is working to understand how humans perform in spacesuits for the EVA Physiology, Systems, and Performance (EPSP) Project.
Lesley will be collecting and coordinating data for EPSP experiments on NEEMO 14 that are designed to understand how gravity level, weight, and a person’s “center of gravity” affect the ability to perform tasks that astronauts may someday do on asteroids, the moon or Mars. For these experiments, the NEEMO 14 aquanauts will wear a special “rig” under water that is used to add extra weight and adjust the location of their center of gravity (for example higher, lower, forward or backward compared to normal). Their buoyancy in the water is adjusted, so they weigh the same as they would on the moon or Mars. Then, they perform tasks similar to a spacewalk, and provide feedback to the team on how easy or hard those tasks are.
Lesley is excited to support the NEEMO 14 mission because it will provide important insights into how we can design better spacesuits and work environments for astronauts on future exploration missions. And, she can say she has supported astronauts in space as well as at their lowest (NEEMO) and highest places on Earth; in 2009, she trekked to Mt. Everest Base Camp with a team from JSC, who carried goodies from home to astronaut and Everest climber Scott Parazynski, prior to his Everest summit in May. (Lesley’s photo was taken at the Everest Base Camp bakery at 17,500 feet, known for its apple pie, only $14 a slice! She’s holding a NASA Expedition 18 patch in honor of friends Sandra Magnus and Mike Fincke, who had recently completed that mission on board the International Space Station.)