Remember the Ladies: Bonnie J. Dunbar

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Bonnie Jeanne Dunbar (born March 3, 1949) is a former NASA astronaut. She retired from NASA in September 2005. She then served as president and CEO of The Museum of Flight until April 2010. Dr. Dunbar now leads the new University of Houston’s STEM Center (science, technology, engineering and math) and joined the faculty of the Cullen College of Engineering.

Early life
Dunbar was born in Sunnyside, Washington. In 1967, she graduated from Sunnyside High School, Sunnyside, Washington. Following graduation in 1971 from the University of Washington, Dunbar worked for Boeing Computer Services for two years as a systems analyst. From 1973 to 1975, she conducted research for her master’s thesis in the field of mechanisms and kinetics of ionic diffusion in sodium beta-alumina. She is a member of Kappa Delta Sorority.

In 1975, she was invited to participate in research at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment, Harwell near Oxford, England, as a visiting scientist. Her work there involved the wetting behavior of liquids on solid substrates. Following her work in England, she accepted a senior research engineer position with Rockwell International Space Division in Downey, California. Her responsibilities there included developing equipment and processes for the manufacture of the Space Shuttle thermal protection system in Palmdale, California. She also represented Rockwell International as a member of the Dr. Kraft Ehricke evaluation committee on prospective space industrialization concepts. Dunbar completed her doctorate at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. Her multi-disciplinary dissertation (materials science and physiology) involved evaluating the effects of simulated space flight on bone strength and fracture toughness. These results were correlated to alterations in hormonal and metabolic activity. Dr. Dunbar has served as an adjunct assistant professor in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Houston.

Dunbar is a private pilot with over 200 hours in single engine land aircraft, has logged more than 700 hours flying time in T-38 jets as a back-seater, and has over 100 hours as co-pilot in a Cessna Citation jet. She was married to fellow astronaut Ronald M. Sega.

NASA career
Dunbar accepted a position as a payload officer/flight controller at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in 1978. She served as a guidance and navigation officer/flight controller for the Skylab reentry mission in 1979 and was subsequently designated project officer/payload officer for the integration of several Space Shuttle payloads.

Dunbar became a NASA astronaut in August 1981. Her technical assignments have included assisting in the verification of Shuttle flight software at the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), serving as a member of the Flight Crew Equipment Control Board, participation as a member of the Astronaut Office Science Support Group, supporting operational development of the remote manipulator system (RMS). She has served as chief of the Mission Development Branch, as the Astronaut Office interface for “secondary” payloads, and as lead for the Science Support Group. In 1993, Dr. Dunbar served as Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Life and Microgravity Sciences, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. In February 1994, she traveled to Star City, Russia, where she spent 13-months training as a back-up crew member for a 3-month flight on the Russian Space Station, Mir. In March 1995, she was certified by the Russian Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center as qualified to fly on long duration Mir Space Station flights. From October 1995 to November 1996, she was detailed to the NASA JSC Mission Operations Directorate as Assistant Director where she was responsible for chairing the International Space Station Training Readiness Reviews, and facilitating Russian/American operations and training strategies.

A veteran of five space flights, Dunbar has logged more than 1,208 hours (50 days) in space. She served as a mission specialist on STS-61-A in 1985, STS-32 in 1990, and STS-71 in 1995, and was the Payload Commander on STS-50 in 1992, and STS-89 in 1998.

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