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Down to earth

Down to Earth Jon Lang

Newsweek 4th hour

October 7, 1996

Ever since children have dared to dream, they have always dreamt of going to the moon or to the stars. For the millions of children who dream this, only an infinitely small portion actually achieve this goal. In 1943 in war-torn China, a girl was born who had this same dream. Her name was Shannon Lucid.

She was born in 1943 to a Baptist preacher, Joseph Oscar Wells and Myrtle Wells, a nurse. At 6 months of age she and her parents were sent to a prison camp by the Japanese. Only a year later were they safe in American arms after they were traded for Japanese POW¹s. After the war they went back to China, but in 1949 they were forced to leave when the communists took over.

They then settled in Bethany, Oklahoma.

She always had the dream that someday she would be a space explorer.

People thought her crazy for this dream though, because the United States didn¹t even have a space program. After graduating from Bethany High School in 1960 she got her pilot¹s license. In regard to her dream she said, ³the Baptists wouldn¹t let women preach, so I had to become an astronaut to get closer to God than my father.² By this time America already had a space program. She could not believe that of the first seven Mercury astronauts, none were females. This is just one more instance she complained of discrimination of women in traditionally male held occupations. She experienced the same thing when she tried unsuccessfully to become a commercial pilot. So from Œ66-¹68 she worked at Kerr-Mcgee Corp. as a chemist. This is also where she met her husband Michael Lucid. After she was married she returned to school at the University of Oklahoma, where she earned her B.S. in Chemistry. One interesting occurrence after the birth of her daughter, the very next day she took a biochemistry exam, which her instructor had expected her to make up later.

Three years later she finally had a chance to fulfill her dream by getting into the space program. The program was now allowing women. She ³scrambled² to get her application in and was accepted as one of the first six female astronauts. These women had to go through rigorous testing and they proved that it doesn¹t take a Y chromosome to have ³The Right Stuff².

Her greatest accomplishment to date is she has spent the most time in space of any American. She spent 188 days and 65,454,841 miles in space. She is truly a tribute to sheer will power. When she came back to earth the effects of space usually make the bones and muscles grow weak from lack of gravity. The Russian cosmonauts have to be carried out on stretchers. Her ability to walk can be accredited to her 400 plus hours logged on the treadmill and stationary bike. That is almost 17 days or a tenth of her total time in space, working out.

The space program has really changed in the past ten to fifteen years. Now it is predominately scientific. The space program really isn¹t into taking patriotic notches like they once were. Most of the missions deal with scientific experiments. For example, Lucid conducted experiments with quail eggs and the effects of zero gravity on them and how protein crystals are formed. On other missions scientists have created perfect spheres, a feat almost impossible on earth. It is truly a shift from the ³The Right Stuff² to the ³The New Stuff². Gone are the days of racing T-38¹s and here to stay are the days of science and for the good of man not the military.

Shannon Lucid has been one of the people that has allowed everyone to dream for the stars. She hasn¹t had quite the effect of Neil Armstrong ³one giant leap for mankind² but she has made a great leap for everyone who dares to dream.



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