10 cool facts about the Army astronaut at the International Space Station

Lt. Col. Anne McClain is a crew member of NASA's Expedition 58.


By STAFF AND WIRE REPORTS Published: December 4, 2018

Lt. Col. Anne McClain, an Army helicopter pilot and astronaut,  made it to the International Space Station on Monday as a crew member of NASA's Expedition 58.

A Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying McClain and two other crewmembers successfully docked with the ISS following a clean launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan six hours earlier. In honor of McClain’s journey, we’ve gathered some facts about her:

She’ll be busy in space

During a six-month mission, the crew will conduct more than 250 research investigations and technology demonstrations not possible on Earth. Their findings will advance scientific knowledge of space as well as physical and biological sciences, according to a NASA news release.

McClain is expected to take part in a "Tissues on Chips" investigation, which will launch to the station from a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft. The investigation will allow researchers to explore the effects of reduced gravity on organs at cellular and tissue levels, according to the release.

She decided she wanted to be an astronaut early

When she was 3, McClain revealed her career goals to her mom, she told SciNews. “When I went off to preschool, I told her I was going off to school to learn to be an astronaut. When I was in kindergarten, I wrote my first, very poorly written, book about going to space on the Soyuz vehicle.”

In sixth grade, she asked all her friends for calculators for her birthday, and she got several. She said it was an important reminder to always be yourself. “I was a huge nerd then, and I’m still a total nerd now, but, hey, nerds get to go to space,” she said.



She texted her former teacher before the launch

McClain and Shari Manikowski, a high school math teacher who taught and coached McClain at Gonzaga Prep, have kept in touch through the years. As students at Gonzaga Prep watched a live video feed of the spacecraft docking on Monday, the school's president, Michael Dougherty, burst into the room with excitement, according to a story by The Spokesman-Review.

"She texted Ms. Manikowski on the way to the launch, saying thank you for being my teacher," he told the students. "Nothing could be cooler."

More about her aviation background

She served 15 months in Operation Iraqi Freedom, flying more than 800 combat hours, according to her NASA bio. In all, she’s logged more than 2,000 flight hours in 20 different aircraft.

Some of her NASA portraits were really cute

McClain brought her preschool-age son to her NASA portrait session in 2017, resulting in adorable pictures.




She gets the challenges of work-life balance

In March, she tweeted about being a working parent in response to a post by soccer player and fellow mom Abby Wambach.



She loves playing rugby

She’s been into rugby since she was 18 and even played on the USA Rugby Women's National Team. She says her rugby experience helped her push herself past physical and mental exhaustion in astronaut training. “The only other time that I’ve hit that point of exhaustion is that 60th minute of a rugby match,” she said in a video she tweeted.


She had an underwater promotion ceremony

It took place at the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory, an astronaut training facility and neutral buoyancy pool near Houston, Texas, on Sept. 27.


She wasn't worried about that Soyuz failure

A Soyuz-FG rocket carrying NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Roscosmos’ Alexei Ovchinin failed two minutes into its flight on Oct. 11, activating an automatic rescue system that sent their capsule into a steep ride back to Earth. But McClain said in an Army statement last month that she was confident about her upcoming mission.

"I saw that Oct. 11 incident, not as a failure, but as an absolute success," she said. "What this really proved was that the Russian launch abort system is a really great design and for that reason we have that backup plan.

"Bottom line is that I would have gotten on the Soyuz rocket the next day."

She encourages others to ‘keep dreaming big’

In May, she replied to the mom of a 5-year-old girl whose daughter had asked if she “looked like a boy wearing a skirt” because her outfit included a skirt paired with a shirt with spaceships on it.

“When you have a unique dream, you will be a bit different than most. I know I was. I totally would have worn that shirt! It’s perfect on you! Keep dreaming big,” McClain wrote.



Lt. Col. Anne McClain receives the oath of office during an underwater promotion ceremony on Sept. 27, 2018.

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