When Christa McAuliffe was selected to be the first Teacher in Space, the educational community was very excited and immensely proud. It was truly a sad day on January 28, 1986, when this gifted and talented educator perished, along with six other astronauts, in the Challenger disaster. But the Teacher in Space program lives on, and other remarkable teachers have been fortunate enough to be a part of it. One such teacher is Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger.
Dorothy, who prefers to be called Dottie, was born May 2, 1975, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, the daughter of two teachers. She graduated from Fort Collins High School in Fort Collins, Colorado. After her high school graduation, she earned her bachelor’s degree in geology from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, in 1997, and her teaching certificate from Central Washington University at Ellensburg, Washington, in 1999. That year, she was named the Outstanding Teacher Preparation Candidate at the university.
Dottie was employed for five years as a science teacher at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, Washington, where she instructed courses in earth science and astronomy, and also coached the Science Olympiad. An accomplished athlete, Dottie also coached cross country for three years.
It was through her teaching that Dottie became involved in the NASA astronaut program. One day, while educating her students about the Hubble Space Telescope, one of her students asked her how astronauts go to the bathroom in space. To find the answer, Dottie consulted the NASA website, where she found not only the answer, but also an application to become an educator astronaut. Just over a year later, in May, 2004, the gifted educator was selected to be an Astronaut Candidate. To complete the program, Dottie underwent rigorous training that included orientations, briefings, tours, scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in space shuttle and international space station systems, physiological training, flight training, and water and wilderness survival training. Successful completion of this training in February, 2006, qualified her as a NASA astronaut. Dottie then served as a Mission Specialist in April, 2010, on STS-131, a space shuttle mission to the international space station.
In addition to her other skills, Dottie is a talented singer as well. She has been a long-time lead singer with the all-astronaut rock band, “Max Q,” and she sang the National Anthem at the Houston Astros game against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 20, 2009, in celebration of the fortieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
On April 16, 2012, NASA announced that Dottie would command the NEEMO 16 undersea exploration mission aboard the Aquarius underwater laboratory, scheduled to begin on June 11, 2012, and last twelve days.The NEEMO 16 crew successfully “splashed down” at 11:05 am on June 11. On the morning of June 12, the former teacher and her crewmates officially became aquanauts, having spent over 24 hours underwater.The crew safely returned to the surface on June 22.
Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger. The Teacher in Space program lives on in her.