The primary American girl to launch into area who was not an expert astronaut however a working scientist, Millie Hughes-Fulford, has died at the age of 75.
Hughes-Fulford’s demise was confirmed by the Astronaut Scholarship Basis (ASF) on Thursday (Feb. four).
“We’re grateful for her analysis and developments along with her work within the life sciences. Please be a part of us in expressing our sympathy to Millie’s household and associates presently,” Caroline Schumacher, ASF president and chief government officer, wrote in an electronic mail.
Initially chosen by NASA in 1983 to coach as a non-career astronaut for a science-dedicated area shuttle mission, Hughes-Fulford’s first and solely launch was delayed by the 1986 Challenger tragedy. Lifting off on the area shuttle Columbia on June 5, 1991, Hughes-Fulford turned the primary feminine payload specialist to enter orbit and a member of the primary crew to incorporate three ladies.
She was additionally the primary individual to fly into area to symbolize the U.S. Division of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), having been a molecular biologist on the VA medical middle in San Francisco on the time.
“It was a life’s dream, and never many people get our life’s dream,” Hughes-Fulford mentioned in a 2014 interview with the VA.
“I used to be watching Buck Rogers in 1950 after I was 5 years previous, and their pilot was a girl named Wilma Deering. I wished to be Wilma Deering as a result of she may put on pants. At the moment a little bit woman couldn’t go round in pants. I’d sneak off in my pair of Levi’s and I’d hear, ‘Get out of these Levi’s, put your gown on!'” she mentioned. “And so I wished to be Wilma Deering as a result of she may put on something she wished to, she flew a spaceship and was an expert girl.”
“It was a dream and it become actuality, which was awfully good,” she mentioned.
As a member of the STS-40 crew, Hughes-Fulford was chargeable for overseeing a few of the experiments aboard Spacelab Life Sciences 1 (SLS-1), the fifth Spacelab mission and the primary devoted solely to biomedical analysis. As a cell biologist, one in all her duties was to assist in the gathering of her crewmates’ blood.
“It wasn’t such as you simply drew a tube of blood and put within the fridge. It was, you need to do a finger stick and get a hematocrit. It’s a must to draw blood for this and spin it and separate the serum from the blood. It’s a must to put this one within the fridge instantly. It was such as you gather six or seven issues for every draw, and then you definitely’ve obtained 4 individuals, so you’ve got obtained numerous completely different shifting elements,” mentioned Rhea Seddon, one in all Hughes-Fulford’s STS-40 crewmates, in a 2011 NASA oral historical past interview.
The STS-40 crew accomplished greater than 18 experiments (together with 10 involving people, seven involving rodents and one with jellyfish) and returned to Earth with extra medical knowledge than any prior NASA spaceflight. “We’re at 140% of what we anticipated to do,” Hughes-Fulford mentioned in a televised interview whereas in area.
However even after logging 9 days, 2 hours, 14 minutes and a couple of seconds off the planet, Hughes-Fulford’s mission was not over. Along with Seddon, mission specialist Jim Bagian and fellow payload specialist Drew Gaffney, Hughes-Fulford remained for per week on the touchdown web site to proceed offering knowledge on how the human physique readjusted to gravity.
Associated: Weightlessness and its effects on astronauts
Millie Elizabeth Hughes-Fulford was born in Mineral Wells, Texas, on Dec. 21, 1945. Getting into faculty on the age of 16, she earned her Bachelor of Science diploma in chemistry and biology from Tarleton State College in 1968, after which studied plasma chemistry at Texas Girl’s College as a Nationwide Science Basis Graduate Fellow from 1968 to 1971.
Upon finishing her doctorate at Texas Girls’s College in 1972, Hughes-Fulford joined the school of Southwestern Medical College on the College of Texas, Dallas as a postdoctoral fellow, the place her analysis centered on the regulation of ldl cholesterol metabolism. She additionally served as a serious within the U.S. Military Reserve Medical Corps from 1981 by means of 1995.
At first assigned to backup payload specialist Robert Phillips on the SLS-1 (STS-40) mission, Hughes-Fulford joined the prime crew after Phillips was medically disqualified from flight.
Following her spaceflight, Hughes-Fulford returned to the VA medical middle in San Francisco, the place she turned director of the laboratory that now bears her name. She was a contributor to greater than 120 papers and abstracts on T-cell activation, bone and most cancers progress regulation and continued to conduct analysis in area because the principal investigator for experiments that flew aboard STS-76 in March 1996, STS-81 in January 1997 and STS-84 in Might 1997, analyzing the basis causes of osteoporosis that happen in astronauts whereas in microgravity.
She additionally flew experiments aboard Soyuz and SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the Worldwide House Station, finding out the lower in T-cell activation — a medical drawback that was first present in returning Apollo astronauts — and the way remoted T-cells had been activated in spaceflight. (T-cells are a kind of white blood cell that’s of significance to the physique’s immune system.)
“If you happen to consider it, all of us developed in a gravity discipline. After we go into spaceflight and we now have microgravity, we now have eradicated one variable. In arithmetic, in case you do away with a variable, you’ll be able to clear up the equation, and we’re in a position to have a look at the immune system in a complete new means that has not been potential,” Hughes-Fulford mentioned in a video interview for the ISS Nationwide Laboratory in 2015.
A recipient of the NASA House Flight Medal in 1991, Hughes-Fulford’s analysis on board the area station was awarded by NASA as a High Discovery on ISS.
Hughes-Fulford was married to George Fulford, who preceded her in demise. She is survived by their daughter, Tori Herzog.
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