One of Vickie’s earliest memories of growing up in San Antonio, Texas is being in a kindergarten class and watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Her teacher chose to include her class in what would become a defining moment in history.
As a child, Mai Lee did not envision working for NASA or becoming an engineer. She was born in the Ban Vinai Refugee Camp in Thailand, the oldest of four children. Her family were refugees of the Vietnam War and settled in the U.S. in 1992 when she was six years old. Mai Lee started school only knowing one English word – “restroom”.
When Helen was in elementary school, she vividly remembers watching the movie Apollo 13 and being so intrigued – she wanted to be one of those people in Mission Control solving technical problems for the astronauts.
Christina often jokes that when one crosses a physicist and a cake decorator/florist, NASA engineer is born! Christina has always believed that a good engineer is a creative engineer. Attributing to her parents’ very different career backgrounds, she remember her childhood as being a split lesson in arts and crafts and science.
“Absolutely amazing” is how Vanessa Wyche would describe her career at NASA. Having the ability to have a profession in one’s area of interest is rewarding, but being able to do that and work at NASA is pretty awesome.
Sarah Ruiz’s interest in NASA began as a high school freshman when she was challenged by her high school physics teacher to enter a contest. She won the regional prize and traveled to KSC to present a Mars experiment design—an experience which exposed her to the variety of amazing things NASA was doing, including preparations for the STS-61 Hubble repair mission. For the first time, she realized that doing “space stuff” was a viable career option.
In high school, when other students may have asked for a spring break trip to the beach, Tricia Mack asked to go to Florida to tour the Kennedy Space Center. She still remembers the tour and excitedly taking photos of the space shuttle launch pads (even empty). Years later, she’d actually work in the shuttle on the pad days before launch as part of her duties as an Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) or “spacewalk” flight controller and instructor at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston.
Born and raised in a suburb outside of Sacramento, California, Katie grew up in a close-knit family and had a very happy childhood. She absolutely loved school and learning, and when she was in 5th grade, Katie had the opportunity to attend a week of Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama which sparked her love of NASA.
Despite being a Houston, Texas native, Janelle Holt thought that only engineers and scientists could work for NASA. She was introduced to NASA career possibilities for business students during a Career Fair at her alma mater, the University of Houston.
Dr. Valerie Meyers was exposed to the idea of human spaceflight at family gatherings where her uncle, who worked at Link Flight Simulation in Houston, talked about his job developing simulators to train astronauts. Her personal journey to NASA began in fifth grade when an article in Weekly Reader magazine mentioned NASA would be looking for people with doctorate degrees in chemistry, physics, mathematics, and astronomy to work on a space station they were developing.
Karen Rodriguez is known as a talented project manager. But as a teenage mom, she was often told she would never amount to anything. With determination, dedication, and the support of her husband, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from New Mexico State University.
Growing up with six siblings, Annette Moore quickly grasped the appreciation for working as a team. Today she employs the principles she learned as a child in working with her NASA teammates in helping to accomplish the mission of the Agency.
Julie Kramer White demonstrated mechanical aptitude at a young age. She was the one who owned and treasured her toolbox; the one asked to fix the washer, the recliner or whatever was broken.
At the age of 16, Tracy Caldwell Dyson—like so many others—found an admirable role model in certain teacher who had accomplished the seemingly impossible. “Christa McAuliffe inspired me to search and reach for a goal that I thought was unreachable,” Caldwell Dyson said, even though at the time she had no idea how to get there.
Melanie Saunders found out, in the most joyous way, that “work-life” balance can be tipped – in triplicate – in the direction of “life” when she discovered that she was pregnant with triplets. Being the high achiever she has always been, Ms. Saunders found a way to put family first without putting her career on permanent leave.
Diep Nguyen’s life took a major detour on the morning of April 30, 1975, when she boarded a helicopter piloted by a friend—now her husband—with the intention of spending the weekend with her mother
Dorothy “Dottie” Metcalf-Lindenburger, the daughter of two teachers with a love of the space program, has “The Right Stuff.” As a NASA astronaut who flew with the crew of STS-131 to the International Space Station, Ms. Metcalf-Lindenburger has risen to heights that make those of the Mile High City of Denver, in which she grew up, pale by comparison.
As a child, Ginger Kerrick dreamed of growing up to be either a basketball player or an astronaut. When neither dream came to fruition, Ms. Kerrick developed a fresh perspective – best summed up by the phrase “It just wasn’t meant to be” – and is today part of NASA, serving in the Mission Control Center at the NASA Johnson Space Center as a Flight Director.