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Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper ‘84, Astronaut by Matt McGann '00

The 24th MIT graduate to go into space.

August 16, 2006

And speaking of awesome MIT alumna…

Later this month, Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper ’84 SM ’85 (Commander, USN) will become the 24th MIT graduate in space when STS-115 launches. More than one-third of the nation’s space flights have included MIT-educated astronauts, who have logged a total of more than 15,000 hours in space. (Check out the MIT Astronaut Roster)

While Stefanyshyn-Piper was at MIT, she lived at WILG, worked at the Lab for Manufacturing and Productivity, rowed for the Varsity Women’s Crew, and did Navy ROTC.

In her preflight interview, Stefanyshyn-Piper said of her MIT experience:

“The brief thumbnail sketch of getting here is, well, after high school I went to college, and I applied to MIT, you know, looking at different schools. I figured, OK, Massachusetts Institute of Tech, Technology, is a good technical school. Math and science were definitely my stronger subjects in high school, and so I figured I’d probably do a career in something math and science. Back in the late ’70s or early ’80s, they were doing a big push to get a lot more girls to go into engineering. And so I said, OK, engineering, that’s math and science, so I guess I can do that. So I applied to MIT and I got accepted, and then I took a Navy scholarship to help pay for college. From there, I got a degree in mechanical engineering — actually I got two degrees. I had so much fun at MIT I decided to stay an extra year and finish my master’s degree. And then I was commissioned in the Navy, and I did underwater ship repair and ship repair and some salvage work. That was kind of my professional background in the Navy. And then from there, I applied to the astronaut program and was fortunate enough to be accepted.”

And she says this about space exploration:

“To me exploring space is just a natural progression of, where humans are going. As we become more advanced and we have more technology to go farther. Thousands of years ago people would just go beyond the next hill, go over the mountain, go across the river. Then it led to going across the oceans. And, then it was “OK, let’s go into the skies.” We now have airplanes. We can fly. We have submarines and submersibles; we can go into the waters. So looking into the skies and looking at the stars and at the planets and thinking, what’s out thereпњљ We’re curious. We, as humans always want to know what’s out there. To me it, it just seems natural that we’ve looked around here and we’re just going to go look out farther. We’re still developing the means to go out there farther. But that’s just where we’re going to go next. To me, exploration makes sense because we’re always looking at what’s the next thing out there — what else can we learn, and how can we go there. Maybe we can learn something that we can bring back here and help solve some of the problems we have on Earth.”

If you’re curious, NASA has even posted online a PDF of what she will be eating while she’s in space. Day 1 dinner: grilled pork chop, mashed potatoes, broccoli au gratin, peach ambrosia, apple cider, and tea with lemon & sugar. Wow, they’ve come a long way since freeze-dried ice cream!

14 responses to “Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper ‘84, Astronaut”

  1. Aziz '10 says:

    WOWWW!! That many MIT graduates have gone into space…AMAZING!!

  2. Minh says:

    Aziz took my comment! I was going to say “That’s amazing!” but I suppose I’ll just have to say that dinner is surely a sign of the times. =D

    Awesome story, Matt!

  3. Two Questions:

    1) About how many female applicants are there each year?

    2)Would a recommendation from a Computer Science teacher count as the Math/Science recommendation?

    Thanks!

  4. Felix says:

    Your blog has always helped me but strangely enough this will be my first post, seeking help from the great Matt McGann.

    I have heard of the immense impact RSI makes on admissions committees and the rumor that “RSI means guaranteed admissions to some top school”. This year I applied and was named an RSI alternate obviously, very disappointing. My friend, a rickoid himself, said RSI alternate doesnt really mean anything and will not help in the admissions process. Is this true? thanks!

  5. Kwan says:

    Quick Question:

    I’m going to take the ACT without writing in September to get college application fee waivers from my school. Would I be able to include these scores on my application, even though it is specified that I take the ACT with writing? (I already have SAT scores, including writing.)

    Thanks, Matt!

  6. Krysten says:

    That’s awsome that you have gone into space. I want to be a mission specalist but I’m only a Junior in high school right now. I’ve tried to get information and get on the mailing list for M.I.T. but for some reason I can’t figure out how. If you can help please let me know.

    * Thank you for inspiring young people like me !!!!!!!

  7. leah says:

    i have another question..

    you said that i could apply for mit as a freshman after attending college only if i was a non-degree seeking student. however, in korea you declare your major when you apply for the school and thats usually the major with which you graduate. would being accepted into and taking courses in a specific department be considered degree-seeking? truthfully, i dont know a lot about how colleges work and dont know exactly what “degree-seeking” defines. if you could just clear that up for me thatd be great.

    i had another question, too, but i forgot what it was 0_o so i guess thats all for now, thanks

  8. leah says:

    ooh i just remembered what it was..

    for the recommendations from our highschool teachers, if i were attending college at the time of application, there would be absolutely nothing wrong with getting the recommendations from a college professor, right?

    or what if i applied before that, but didnt feel my highschool teachers knew me well enough to give a accurate assessment?(becuase of the hierarchy system ingrained in korean culture, as well as the school system itself, teachers are more figures of authority than people eager to befriend their hundreds of students) am i allowed to get the recommendations from my middle school teachers? highly improbable, i would guess, but is there a possibility? is there anyone else who could do them?

    thanks again for all your help^-^

  9. gayathri says:

    its wonderful to see many mit students going to space.i have a great passion to go to space.i see mit is the best place where i can give shape to my dreams.i am studying at india .please tell what are requirements and exam that i should write to do my graduate course at mit

  10. Sandesh says:

    How can i get into MIT

  11. MIT Rowers are HOT!

  12. Emal says:

    Congratz MIT and the Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper!!

    Some care for a date??? wink

    infact 2 dates!!

    one before the journey and the other one after it.

    Coz love to hear about ur voyage.

    BON VOYAGE!!

  13. Zorch says:

    Why does she have “Xena” on her name tag in the post-flight photos? Is it a nickname, or is she lobbying to get Eris renamed back to Xena? Either way, it shows her sense of fun!!

  14. Zorch says:

    Why does she have “Xena” on her name tag in the post-flight photos? Is it a nickname, or is she lobbying to get dwarf planet Eris renamed back to Xena? Either way, it shows her sense of fun!!