Docstoc

Down to Earth

Document Sample
Down to Earth Powered By Docstoc
					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.