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Shuttle Astronaut Joan Higginbotham to Speak Feb. 7

Family speaker program with third female African-American astronaut

SEATTLE – On Feb. 7 at 2:30 p.m., former space shuttle astronaut Joan Higginbotham will be at The Museum of Flight to give an inspiring presentation for students and families. Higginbotham is the third female African-American astronaut. In 2006, she logged over 300 hours in space as a crewmember of a shuttle mission to the International Space Station. Her primary duty in orbit was to operate the station’s lengthy robotic crane known as Canadarm2. More recently she was the Director of Community Relations for Lowe’s, where she managed the company’s charitable and educational fund. The program is free with admission to the Museum.

NASA photo of Joan Higginbotham.
NASA photo of Joan Higginbotham.
Higginbotham is at the Museum that day to mentor students in the Michael P. Anderson Memorial Aerospace Program, which enables underserved children in grades 6-8 to meet role models in aerospace professions and learn about careers in science and technology.

Higginbotham talks about her NASA career in this video:

oan Higginbotham NASA Experience
Joan Higginbotham began her career in 1987 at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida, as a Payload Electrical Engineer in the Electrical and Telecommunications Systems Division. Within six months she became the lead for the Orbiter Experiments on OV-102, the space shuttle Columbia. She later worked on the shuttle payload bay reconfiguration for all shuttle missions and conducted electrical compatibility tests for all payloads flown aboard the shuttle.

Higginbotham was the Executive Staff Assistant to the Director of Shuttle Operations and Management, and led a team of engineers in performing critical analysis for the space shuttle flow in support of a simulation model tool. She also worked on an interactive display detailing the Space Shuttle processing procedures at Spaceport USA (Kennedy Space Center’s Visitors Center).

Higginbotham then served as backup orbiter project engineer for OV-104, Space Shuttle Atlantis, where she participated in the integration of the orbiter docking station into the space shuttle used during Shuttle/Mir docking missions. Two years later, she was promoted to Lead Orbiter Project Engineer for space shuttle Columbia. In this position, she held the technical lead government engineering position in the firing room where she supported and managed the integration of vehicle testing and troubleshooting. She actively participated in 53 space shuttle launches during her 9-year tenure at Kennedy Space Center.

Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in April 1996, Higginbotham reported to the Johnson Space Center in August of that year. She was assigned technical duties in the Payloads & Habitability Branch, and the Shuttle Avionics & Integration Laboratory at the Kennedy Space Center Operations Support Branch, where she tested various modules of the International Space Station for operability, compatibility, and functionality prior to launch.

At the Astronaut Office CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) Branch, Higginbotham supported numerous space station missions and space shuttle missions, the Robotics Branch, and was the Lead for the International Space Station Systems Crew Interfaces Section. Higginbotham logged 308 hours in space having completed her first mission with the crew of STS-116 where her primary task was to operate the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS).

Higginbotham was assigned to the STS-126 mission targeted for launch in September 2008. In November 2007, she retired from NASA in order to pursue a career in the private sector.

Spaceflight Experience
STS-116 Discovery (Dec. 9-22, 2006)
The seven-member crew on this 12-day mission continued construction of the ISS outpost by adding the P5 spacer truss segment during the first of four spacewalks. The next two spacewalks rewired the station’s power system, preparing it to support the addition of European and Japanese science modules by future shuttle crews. The fourth spacewalk was added to allow the crew to coax and retract a stubborn solar panel to fold up accordion-style into its box. Discovery also delivered a new crewmember and more than two tons of equipment and supplies to the station. Almost two tons of items no longer needed on the station returned to Earth with STS-116. Mission duration was 12 days, 20 hours and 45 minutes.

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