First Woman Space Mission Commander
March 15, 1998 — Roosevelt Room, The White House, Washington DC
Mr. President, Mrs. Clinton, and Administrator [Daniel] Goldin, I just can’t tell you how much of an honor it is for me to be here today. And I’m just so excited about this opportunity that I have to command a space shuttle flight. And I want to tell you that since I was a child I’ve dreamed about space. I’ve admired pilots, astronauts, and I’ve admired explorers of all kinds. And it was only a dream of mine that I would someday be one of them and have these kinds of opportunities.
Throughout my life I’ve studied the universe that we live in and I’ve just been fascinated by astronomy and all kinds of science. And again, it was only a dream of mine that someday I’d have the opportunity to be part of such an important astronomy mission as this one, the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility. And throughout my life, and in particular, in my career in the U.S. military and with NASA, I’ve been given important jobs and responsibilities, and I now accept this responsibility with all the determination and the motivation and the diligence that I’ve had in all the other challenges I’ve faced.
I also think it’s important that I point out that I didn’t get here alone. There are so many women throughout this century that have gone before me and have taken to the skies. From the first barnstormers through the women military Air Force service pilots from World War II, the Mercury women from back in the early 1960s that went through all the tough medical testing to become the first astronauts, to the first women who entered the Air Force and Navy military pilot training in the mid 1970s, and most important, t e first women astronauts — and I’d like to point out Sally Ride, who is with us here today— all these women have been my role models and my inspiration and I couldn’t be here today without them. And I’d like to say a special thank you to them.
And additionally, while I’ve got the podium, I’d like to in particular thank my family and my friends, especially my parents, who have been my best teachers and have been my mentors throughout my life. I’d like to recognize my husband, who is here with me today. Without him, without the unfailing support that he has provided tome, I couldn’t be here today.
And now it’s time to for us to focus on this mission. On STS-93, our crew will deploy the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility, or AXAF. As an amateur astronomer, I’m personally excited about the information this telescope will bring back to us. We’ll learn more about the characteristics of individual stars, binary stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and quasars.
Since high-energy X-rays can penetrate through gas and dust, and detect objects that are 100 times fainter than the current X-ray satellite that we have in orbit right now, AXAF will teach us about the beginning, the evolution, the current structure, and possibly even the fate of the universe that we live in. And our crew is very excited about this mission.
But there’s still much work left to be done between now and our December flight. There’s training, testing, traveling, there will be flying and more simulators and constant practice. Today we’re just getting started. Our crew will focus on this mission 100 percent, and we will make it one of NASA’s greatest success.
In conclusion, it’s my hope that all children, boys and girls, will see this mission and be inspired to reach for their dreams, too, because dreams do come true.
Thank you. And now it is my honor to introduce to you the President of the United States.
Source: The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, March 5, 1998.