Stephanie Wilson is an American engineer, a NASA astronaut, and the second African American woman to go into space. She was born Stephanie Diana Wilson on September 27, 1966 in Boston, Massachusetts. An astronomy professor she interviewed during middle school became her first inspiration to pursue a career in space. She graduated from Taconic High School in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1984, and then attended Harvard University, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in engineering science in 1988. For two years she worked as a Loads and Dynamics engineer for the Titan IV rocket at the Martin Marietta Astronautics Group in Denver, Colorado; however, she left the company in 1990 to attend the University of Texas, where she received a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering in 1992. Upon completing her graduate work, Wilson began working as a member of the Attitude and Articulation Control Subsystem for the Galileo spacecraft at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and subsequently supported the Interferometery Technology Program as a member of the Integrated Modeling Team.
In April 1996, Wilson was selected by NASA as an Astronaut Candidate. She reported to the Johnson Space Center in August and completed two years of training and evaluation to qualify her for flight assignment as a mission specialist. Her initial assignments included working with Space Station payload displays and procedures in the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch. She then worked in Mission Control as a spacecraft communicator before moving back to the Operations Branch.
Wilson’s first mission to space, STS-121, launched on July 4, 2006 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. As a mission specialist, she helped test new equipment and safety procedures, as well as repair a rail car on the International Space Station. She also lead robotic arm operations throughout the mission. After delivering a new Expedition 13 crew member to the station, the mission ended safely. On October 23, 2007 Wilson was launched into space on STS-120 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. During the mission, she served as a Mission Specialist on a multinational crew to deliver the Node 2 Harmony module to the International Space Station. The crew performed four spacewalks as well as swapped crew members from Expeditions 5 and 6. After 238 orbits of the Earth, the mission landed back on Earth on November 7, 2007. In April 2010, STS-131 launched with Wilson in tow as a Mission Specialist. The main shipment of this mission was a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module packed with supplies and equipment for the International Space Station.
Image Caption: Astronaut Stephanie D. Wilson. Credit: NASA/Wikipedia