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The Highest Praise

Kudos from Space for CSUF Mentors

TRACY CALDWELL DYSON, Cal State Fullerton alumna (B.A. chemistry ’93) and a flight engineer aboard the orbiting International Space Station, lauded her faculty mentors and the role her education played in preparing her to meet the challenges of living and working in space  during an 11-minute Sept. 1 interview streamed live by NASA TV.

Asked by Scott Hewitt, who taught her biochemistry classes, to comment on her record-breaking spacewalk,  Caldwell replied: “Scott (Hewitt) is such a good friend and also a great mentor. He has to know that it was a very exciting time and a very emotional time for me as I’ve been wanting to do a spacewalk for well over a decade and trained for it as well,” said Caldwell.

Regarding the ultimately successful effort to replace a coolant pump, Caldwell Dyson said, “I would have to say that what my physical chemistry prepared me for with the pump module is to understand the dangers of ammonia in a vacuum. ... I learned a lot from Dr. (John) Olmstead — I wish I had a lot of time to talk about it — but one of the things he introduced me to was hardware. As a physical chemist, you spend as much time with a wrench in your hand and fixing lasers and pumps than you do with a beaker and liquid chemicals.”

“The challenge was getting ready in such a short period of time,” she explained. “We had some familiarity with the (coolant) pump, but the whole choreography was going to be a little on the fly.” Still, she added, smiling, “Like everyone told me, 'Just have fun.’ ”

Caldwell Dyson encouraged more women to consider a future in the space program. “I think I can speak for all the ladies in the astronaut corps that we hope that more ladies will take on the challenge of flying in space and help to build our space program. You know there’s a whole lot more to do than just flying in space. There’s a lot of spectacular, exciting stuff going on on the ground, helping to build space ships, helping to manage them and to direct the flights from the ground up.”

A video of the full interview is available on YouTube.

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