“Rocket Woman”: from space shuttle engineer to space historian

Linda (Getch) Dawson ’71 grew to the height of the space race between the US and USSR. He remembers driving with his family to an observatory to hear the shot of the Soviet satellite Sputnik pass overhead. “It’s funny how your path is different, but I’ve always come back to my first love: aerospace,” he says. Dawson’s career took her from MIT to NASA, after a second career as a teacher and a writer, earning her the nickname “Rocket Woman” from colleagues and reporters.


Dawson said his “most exciting job ever” in aerospace was working as an aerodynamic flight controller at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. It was the late 70s, and he was on the navigation and guidance mission control group responsible for making sure the space shuttle safely entered the air. He ran “endless simulations of astronauts and pilots” to determine how much fuel was needed for the first flight, which caused the most critical failures. He is on duty to control the launch and launch mission as well, still running simulations to figure out and figure out the shuttle’s flight rules as conditions change. “If you’re flying at supersonic and hypersonic speeds, it all happens so quickly that you don’t have the ability to look at a book to figure out what you need to do if something goes wrong,” he said. He left NASA well before the Challenger and Columbia disasters show how dangerous human space flight is-but will share his perspective on these tragedies after the first book.

After graduating from NASA and working at Boeing Aerospace, Dawson spent more than 20 years as a senior lecturer at the University of Washington, Tacoma, where she designed women’s courses in science and history and science exploration. space. But, he said, “I don’t find it reasonable [space] book that satisfies what I think should be included in a kubu way – it could be overly technical or it could be a children’s book. ”That’s why Dawson decided to write his own. The Politics and Risks of Space Analysis (Springer, 2017, with a second edition this year) and Space war (Springer, 2018) narrates the history of the space program and explores today’s complex politics of space exploration as different companies and countries compete for access and resources.

Having finished teaching, Dawson continues to write and lecture at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where he is a longtime volunteer. “At the museum there is a lot of new generation of young people who still want to take rocket classes and learn about space,” he said. “It’s nice to see that.”

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