Kathryn Hire is a Captain in the U.S. Navy Reserve and a NASA astronaut. She was born Kathryn Patricia “Kay” Hire on August 26, 1959 in Mobile, Alabama where she was raised by her parents. She graduated from Murphy High School in Mobile in 1977 and subsequently attended the United States Naval Academy, where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering and Management in 1981. The following year, Hire earned her Naval Flight Officer wings and began conducting international airborne oceanographic research missions with Oceanographic Development Squadron Eight, flying as Oceanographic Project Coordinator, Mission Commander and Detachment Officer-in-Charge aboard specially configured RP-3A and RP-3D Orion aircrafts. She was then assigned to Naval Air Training Unit Mather as an instructor of student naval flight officers, progressing from Navigation Instructor and Course Manager to Curriculum Manager. During that time she was also assigned as a navigator flight instructor in the USAF T-43A aircraft.
In January 1989, Hire left active duty and joined the Naval Reserve at NAS Jacksonville, Florida. Her first tours of duty included Patrol Squadron Augment Unit VP-0545 and Anti-Submarine Warfare Operations Center 0574 and 0374. Around the same time, she began work at the Kennedy Space Center, first as an Orbiter Processing Facility 3 Activation Engineer and later as a Space Shuttle Orbiter Mechanical Systems Engineer. In 1991, she received a Master of Science degree in Space Technology from Florida Institute of Technology and was simultaneously certified as a Space Shuttle Test Project Engineer.
After the Title 10 U.S.C. combat aircraft restriction for female military aviators was revoked in 1993, Hire became the first female assigned to a combat aircrew in the U.S. military, when she reported to Patrol Squadron Sixty-Two on May 13. There she was a Navigator and Communicator flying the P-3C Update III Orion aircraft and regularly deployed for flight operations in the North Atlantic, European, and Caribbean regions. She then served as Supervisor of Space Shuttle Orbiter Mechanisms and Launch Pad Swing Arms in 1994.
NASA chose Hire to be an astronaut in December 1994, and she reported to the Johnson Space Center the following March. After completing a year of training, she served as a spacecraft communicator in mission control. In 1998, Hire was launched into space for the first time. She flew as a Mission Specialist aboard Space Shuttle Columbia on STS-90 as part of the Neurolab mission. The crew launched on April 17, 1998 and performed the “Cardiovascular Adaptation to Zero-Gravity” experiment as well as assisted with other Spacelab experiments. During the flight, the crew served as both experiment subjects and operators for 26 individual life science experiments, which focused on the effects of microgravity on the brain and nervous system. The flight orbited the Earth 256 times before landing back on Earth on May 3, 1998. She later returned to serve in the Navy with the USS Kitty Hawk Detachment 0482, Tactical Support Center 0682, U.S. Seventh Fleet Detachment 111, and U.S. Naval Forces Central Command Detachment 108. From 2001 to 2003, Hire was called back to full-time active military duty and supported Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom as a member of the Headquarters of U.S. Central Command Current Operations and Joint Operations Center staffs at MacDill AFB. On December 1, 2002, the U.S. Navy promoted Hire to her current rank of Captain.
On February 8, 2010 Hire was launched into space again as a Mission Specialist, this time aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour on STS-130. The mission successfully delivered the Tranquility unit and Cupola to the International Space Station. She operated robotics, surveyed the payload bay, and served as Lead Robotics and Loadmaster. The crew safely returned to Earth with a landing at Kennedy Space Center on February 21, 2010. Hire has been recognized for her work with numerous awards, including the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Joint Service Commendation Medal, two National Defense Service Medals, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the War on Terrorism Service Medal, the NASA Space Flight Medal, and the Armed Forces Reserve Medal with silver Hourglass Device.
Image Caption: Astronaut Kathryn P. (Kay) Hire, mission specialist. Credit: NASA/Bill Stafford/Wikipedia