Women of History: Those Lost to the Sky

I have decided to do a special edition of the Women of history today. This week is a big week in US Space exploration history, although a tragic one as well. On January 27, 1967, The Apollo 1 disaster happened. It killed three astronauts after the pure oxygen in the cockpit caught on fire due to an equipment malfunction and the cockpit could not be opened in time. Their names were Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee.

Nearly 20 years later another disaster would happen. On January 28, 1986 The space shuttle Challenger took off and exploded in mid-air killing all on board. It was later determined that a ring sealing the fuel takes had frozen and cracked during the cold night and caused the explosion.

Their names were Francis R. Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A Resnik, Ronald E McNair, Gregory B Jarvis, and S. Christa McAuliffe.

17 years later, on February 1, 2003, NASA would be touched with tragedy again. During reentry, the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated killing all on board and scattering debris across Texas. It was determined that a piece of foam protecting the space shuttle from the heat of reentry had become loose and had fallen off during launch. That exposed the inner ship to high temperatures and eventually destroyed the ship.

Those on board were Rick D. Husband, William C. McCool, David M. Brown, Kalpana Chawla, Michael P. Anderson, Laurel B. Clark, and Ilan Ramon.

Since this essay series is about the women of history, I am going to do a brief bio on the women involved in these tragedies. All members of these crews deserve to be remembered for their sacrifice and one day I may write an essay on the events themselves, allowing me to discuss the men involved in more detail. For now, I will focus on the women astronauts.

Out of the 19 people killed in these tragedies only four were women. They all came from different backgrounds, histories and skill sets. They had one thing in common though; a desire to explore and discover.

Judith A. Resnik

Judith Resnik was born on April 5, 1949 in Akron, Ohio, the daughter of two immigrants. She would attend Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania were she would earn a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering. She would later earn her Ph.D. at the University of Maryland. During her early career she worked for several companies, including Xerox and the National Institute of Health. She also worked on various projects with NASA before her recruitment.

In 1978, Nichelle Nichols recruited her to NASA. She became one of the first women chosen as an astronaut, along with five others including Sally Ride who would be the first one in space. She was named a member of “Group 8”, a collection of 35 astronauts. They were divided into two groups, pilots and mission specialists. Resnik would be a mission specialist, and would specialize in robotics.

Her first mission would on the maidan Voyage of the Space Shuttle Discovery in August of 1984. The mission team spent a week in space, with the task of deploying 3 satellites, studying crystal growth, and experimenting with an IMAX camera. At the time she was the second woman in space, and also the first American Jewish woman to go into space.

She was assigned to be a mission specialist on Challenger ST-51-L. Due to evidence found in the cockpit, it is quite likely that she was one of the last passengers to be alive after the explosion.

After her death she was honored by her alma maters when both choose to name buildings after her. She also has two awards named after her: The IEEE Judith A. Resnik Award (IEEE) and the Resnik Challenger Award (Society of Women Engineers).



Her brother Charles Resnik and other family members of the Challenger astronauts came together to form the Challenger Center in 1986 to promote Stem education and interest for children.


S. Christa McAuliffe

Christa McAuliffe tends to be the most famous of her crewmates by virtue of her reason for being on the mission. McAuliffe was a New Hampshire school teacher who signed up for a program to put a teacher in space. She was a mission specialist, and was going to run various experiments and promote science education.

McAuliffe was born Sharon Christa Corrigan on September 2, 1948 in Boston Massachusetts. Early on she was known by her middle name, Christa. She crew up with the space program and felt inspired by it. She attended Farmington State College in 1970 (and married her longtime boyfriend Steven McAuliffe), getting a bachelors in education and history. She would later attended Bowie State University in 1978, earning her masters in education supervision and administration. She held several jobs as a social studies teacher, traveling as her husband’s career and their family needed them to. In 1983, she accepted her final position as a high school history teacher. She even designed a history course on “The American Woman.”

In 1985, she was selected from several thousand applicants for NASA’s Teacher in space project. She spent a year in training along with her backup, Barbara Morgan, and was scheduled to go into space on Challenger STS-51-L. During that mission she was to conduct several experiments and hold two short lessons from space.

After her death, she was honored by the naming of the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center (Concord, Massachusetts), The Christa Corrigan McAuliffe Center for Education and Teaching excellence (Farmington State UNiversity) and several other schools and education centers. Several teaching scholarships as well have been made in her name.



Barbara Morgan would later fly as the first Teacher in space.

It was announced that the lessons and experiments she planned on teaching will be taught on the space Station by Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold during their tours of duty on the station. They will be aired on the Challenger Center website in the spring.

Kalpana Chawla

Kalpana Chawla was born on March 17, 1962 in Karnal (Haryana), Punjab, India. She attended the Punjab Engineering College and got a bachelors in Aeronautical engineering. After receiving her degree, she migrated to the United States in 1982 to attend The University of Texas where she earned a masters in Aerospace engineering. She married Jean-Pierre Harrison in 1983. She would earn her Ph.D. in Aero-enginering in 1988 from the University of Colorado.

Once she earned her PHD she went to work for NASA to do research on fluid dynamics with landings. She would later work as a Vice President for Overset Methods continuing her research. She earned licenses to fly several different kinds of aircraft and even certified to be a flight instructor.

In 1993, Chawla became a naturalized Citizen of the United States and formerly applied to join the NASA team. She joined in 1995, and assigned her first flight in 1996. During her time as an Astronaut, Chawla would take two missions into space, both on the space shuttle Columbia.

Her first mission was STS-87, in 1997 where she was responsible for deploying a satellite. The deployment malfunctioned due to computer errors and procedures. There was a five month investigation into the incident that discovered the problems and decided it was not Chawla at fault.

During the down time between her missions, Chawla was assigned to work in the Astronaut office on work on the space station. She was focused on robotics, in particular robotic situational awareness

in 2000, plans for the STS-107 mission began to take shape and Chawla was selected for the seven member crew. Like with the CHallenger, there were several delays due to scheduling and technical problems. It was in January 2003 that the mission finally was launched.

Unlike with Challenger, the Launch was completed successfully, as thought at the time. However, the launch had dislodged a piece of foam causing the heat shield to have a critical weakness. However, the mission itself before the reentry went without issue. In total, Chawla logged 30.5 days in space.

Afterwards, Chawla was honored with several honors, both in the United states and her birth country of India. The Indian satellite program was renamed in her honor, and the first satellite was called Kalpana-1. Several awards and scholarships were named in her honor, and she even got immortalized in fiction, as a shuttle was named after her in Peter David’s Star Trek novel Star Trek: The Next Generation: Before Dishonor.

She and the rest of her crew members have had hills on Mars named after them, as well as asteroids. Her birthplace has named a Medical hospital in her honor, and several schools and housing complexes have named dorms and halls after her.

Laurel Clark

Laurel Blaire Salton was born on March 10, 1961 in Ames, Iowa. She grew up in Racine, Wisconsin however. She would attend college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1983 she graduated with a bachelor of Science in Zoology in 1983, and would later earn her doctorate in Medicine in 1987.

After completing her doctorate, she served in the United States Navy. She trained with the Experimental Diving Unit, at first focusing on pediatrics before starting training in diving related medicine and diving officer training. This heard her the designation of Radiation Health Officer and Undersea Medical Officer. She was assigned to a submarine Squadron located in Scotland.

After a few years of experience, and a promotion to Naval Submarine Medical Officer, she started training as a Naval Flight Surgeon. This training would come in handy in her later career.

She was selected by NASA to join the astronaut program in 1996 and spent two years in training as a mission specialist. Prior to STS-107, she was assigned to the Astronaut Office Habitability branch. Her total time in space was almost 16 days. Her focus during the Columbia mission was on biosciences research including gardening in space.

She was honored with the Clark Auditorium at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda Maryland. It displays various personal items as well as her uniforms and other space-related materials.

Her husband, Dr. Jonathan Clark, was also a flight surgeon and worked on the investigative team following the Columbia disaster afterwards.

George W. Bush awarded both crews posthumously with the Congressional Space Medal. He awarded it to the crew of Columbia on February 3, 2004 and to the crew of The Challenger on July 23, 2004.

Further Reading

Apollo 1:

Wikipedia:  Apollo 1


Wikipedia: Challenger STS-51-L


Judith Resnik:

Wikipedia: Judith Resnik

NASA: Judith Resnik


Christa McAuliffe:

Wikipedia: Christa McAuliffe

USA Today: Christa McAuliffe’s Science Lessons to be taught aboard Space Station

Challenger Center: Astronauts and Challenger Center to Complete Christa McAuliffe’s Lessons



Wikipedia: Columbia STS-107


Kalpana Chawla:

Wikipedia: Kalpana Chawla

NASA: Kalpana Chawla

NASA: Columbia Crew Memorial: Kalpana Chawla

Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Wall of Honor: Kalpana Chawla


Laurel Clark:

Wikipedia: Laurel Clark

NASA: Laurel Clark

NASA: Columbia Memorial: Laurel Clark

Arlington Cemetery Memorial Page: Laurel Clark



Bookit Review: The Wedding Dress

Title:  The Wedding Dress
Bookit #3
Author: Rachel Hauck
Release Date: 2012
Medium: Paperback

My grade: A-

I really enjoyed this book, which is actually the first in the series.  However, none of the books appear to be interconnected other than a few minor things.  The third book, which I’m not reading at this time might have some more connections, however.  Basically, you can read this book and The Wedding Chapel in any order and not be out-of-place. Continue reading

Women of History: Bessie Coleman

For this edition of “Women of History”, I’m going to get out of the Medieval period and journey back into the 19th century.  Our topic today is Bessie Coleman, a woman who broke barriers and was a pretty good pilot to boot.

Bessie was born on January 26, 1892, so today just so happens to be the 126th anniversary of her birth.  She was born in Atlanta, Texas to George and Susan Coleman but raised in Waxahachie, Texas.  When she went to school due to her mixed racial heritage (Native American and African-American) she was forced to go to segregated one room school. She excelled in school, completing all eight years offered at the time.  When she wasn’t at school, she helped her mother harvest cotton.  Both her parents were farm laborers, but Bessie grew closer to her mother after her father left when she was 12 to find more opportunities in Native American Territory.

When she got older she was awarded a scholarship to the Missionary Baptist Church school.  She later enrolled in Langston UNiversity (then known as the Oklahoma Colored Agricultural and Normal University.) but only was able to complete a single term due to not being able to afford it.

When she turned 23 she and a brother moved to Chicago, and it was there that she found her calling.  While she worked as a manicurist she would hear stories about flying from returning pilots from WWI.  She decided she wanted to earn her pilot’s license and got a second job to save up for it.  She hit a large obstacle when she found out that American flight schools would not accept her (due to her race and gender).  However she found support in publisher Robert S. Abbott and Banker Jesse Binga and was able to study abroad.  She attended classes to learn french so she could attend aviation school in France.

She arrived in France in 1920 to attend flight school and seven months later on June 15, 1921 she earned her international aviation license.  She was the first woman of African-American heritage to earn her license as well as the first Native American.   She then went further and took advanced piloting lessons, and made visits around europe to different aircraft designers to better learn her craft.

To earn a living, she became a stunt pilot, going by the stage name of “Queen Bess” and was quite a draw at aviation shows. She saved up and opened her own beauty ship in Orlando, Florida to save up money to fund her new dream of having her own aviation school.

She found herself still facing racial issues.  At the height of her fame she was offered a role in a feature film, but the scenes she was asked to film contained racial stereotypes she refused to propagate.  Her strong stance at not allowing race determine her future helped inspire future pilots and activists.

Sadly, Bessie never lived to see her aviation school open.  She was killed in an aviation accident on April 30, 1926 in Jacksonville, Florida.  She took to the air with her assistant William D. Wills piloting so she could oversee the field for a show.  A wench got stuck in the controls, causing the plane to flip over.  Bessie was thrown from the cockpit, and fell to her death.  Wills crashed nearby was killed by the impact.  Matters were further complicated when a distressed friend of the two accidentally tossed a cigarette where some gasoline had landed and the crash site went up in flames.

Even in death she fought against racial inequality.  The Florida Times-Union out of Jacksonville, Florida reported the death of Wills, and had Bessie as an afterthought and put the article on a back page despite the fact the crash happened within its limits.  The Chicago Defender had it as front page news and equally honored both pilots while recognizing the racism that defined some views of Bessie and the crash.  The Defender, known for its positive reporting of African-Americans was actually banned in some places.

In 1929, Lt. William J. Powell established an aviation school named in Bessie’s honor.  The Bessie Coleman Aero Club in Los Angeles, California would later host the first all-African-american air show in 1931.  Powell continued to be a civil rights activist though his life.

Bessie would also be honored by an annual flyover on the anniversary of her death (since 1931), an US Postage stamp in 1995,  inductions to the Texas and National (2006) Aviation Hall of Fames, several schools, and was runner-up in the 1998 decision to make a $1 coin (she lost to Sacagawea ).  Last year, she was honored by Google with a doodle on their search engine homepage on her 125th birthday

Bessie leaves behind a legacy of can-do behavior and not letting others keep you from getting your dream.  She worked hard to accomplish her dreams, and she found a way to get it, despite the very real obstacles that were thrown her way simply because she was biracial and female.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: Bessie Coleman

The Florida Times-Union image of the article announcing the death of Bessie Coleman

Bessie Coleman: Flying the Blues (blog)

The Official Bessie Coleman Website

Moonlight Mint: Bessie Coleman 2001 “golden dollar”

The Independent:  Bessie Coleman: First African-American woman to get International Pilot License

Bessie Colemen (National Aviation Hall of Fame)

Bessie Coleman (Texas Aviation Hall of Fame)

Bookit Review: The Wedding Chapel

Title: The Wedding Chapel (book 2 of the Wedding series)
Bookit #2
Author: Rachel Hauck
Release Date:
Medium: Paperback

My grade: A

I picked this book up at a discount item store the other day, not realising it was the second book in a series.  However it seems that the books are connected by theme rather than storyline so I think I’ve done alright.

This book has four point of views (done third person) including Collette, Taylor, Jimmy and Jack.  It is about a family and finding out some hard truths.  At the start of the book, we are introduced to Jimmy, who is an 83-year-old football coach who built a wedding chapel for his girlfriend back in the 50s.  It ended up not working out and he’s finally deciding to sell after interest spikes in the property.

Taylor is a photographer sent by a magazine that heard about the chapel and wanted to photograph it.  She happened to grow up in the same home town as Couch Jimmy, and is amazed by the chapel.  She later finds out the chapel was made for her Great-Aunt Collette.  So Taylor stays around to find out what is going to happen to the chapel as well as deal with her grandmother’s belongings.  It brings out a lot of secrets the family has kept for decades.

In the end, the two couples in the story – Jimmy & Collette;  Jack & Taylor – have to figure out how to get over what has happened to them in the past and make new beginnings.

I enjoyed the story, although sometimes the timeline was hard to follow.  It took place mainly in 2015, with flashbacks to when Jimmy & Collette were younger.  I do admit I wish that Peg had been a point of view, but that might have given away the ending too soon.    I also liked the references to other novels that Rachel Hauck has written, although I only knew they were references because I saw a list of her books one day when searching for the publishing info on this novel.

I’m reading the first book in the series now, called The Wedding Dress.  Its most likely going to be the next book in my book reviews.

Bookit Review: The Last in Love

Title: The Last in Love  (Book 5 in the Ardent Springs series)

Author: Terri Osburn
Release date: 2017
Medium:  E-book (Kindle Unlimited)

My grade:  B

I believe this is the last book in the series, though the end of it hints that if the author could make it a six book series if she wanted to.  This one focuses on Abby Williams, a widow of two years who ends up falling for a man five years younger than her – and someone she used to babysit back in high school. Justin Donovan is recently home after having lost his job, his fiancée and best friend. Both Abby and Justin have some issues to work through.

The book in general is good.  The pacing is a little off, but not so much that it really bothered me.  It was a nice lazy morning read.  Some of the accessory characters (such as Justin’s former fiancée and best friend) are a bit flat as well.  It did well to tie up some loose ends from previous books in the series, as well as tie up overall arcs (such as the Ruby Theater, and Carrie’s women’s shelter).

I did like the theme of women discovering themselves, and building each other up.  Other then Victoria, most of the women in this novel are friends or at least friendly towards each other.  Sometimes when you pick up novels (and definitely tv shows) there is this inclination to make cat fights or have a love triangle where the two women don’t get along because they are fighting over a guy.  This novel stays free of that for the most part.

So if you enjoy low-key romances, I can recommend this book.  Terri Osburn in general is a good author and I have enjoyed both the series that I have read from her.  Many of her novels are available on Kindle Unlimited if you subscribe to that service.

Women of History: Isabel la catolica

Isabel la Católica-2

While researching my last featured woman of history, Catherine of Aragon, I came across stories of her mother Isabella of Castile (also known as Isabella The Catholic) and decided that she should be my next featured Queen.

Note: Some of the words used should have marks on them but don’t due to me not remembering how to open my character map on my PC.

Isabel (Isabella being the anglicised version of her name) was born on the Iberian peninsula, the modern home of Spain and Portugal. At the time, however, it was the home of several different kingdoms.  She was born in Madrigal de las Altas Torres in Availa, a providence in Castile located almost center in modern Spain. Continue reading

Movie Review: Rough Night

Title: Rough Night (2017)
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy
Director: Lucia Aniello
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Zoe Kravitz, Kate McKinnon, Jillian Bell, Ilana Glazer and Paul W. Downs

This movie is awful.  Honestly, the highlight of the movie was seeing Colton Haynes dressed like a stripper since I’ve been watching a lot of Arrow lately.

The funniest person was Paul W. Downs. Actually, his Peter might have been the only funny bit about the movie. Demi Moore is randomly in this movie and comes off kind of creepy rather then the sexy they were going for. Kate McKinnon failed to wow me in this movie like she did in Ghostbusters.  Scarlett Johansson didn’t wow me either, and I usually like what she does.  I know she can do comedy – The Nanny Diaries proves that.

The movie has some ridiculousness to it that is weirdly next to moments when they reference real things.  Honestly it doesn’t work.

My final grade is a D-