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Millie Hughes-Fulford

By Keith Cowing
February 5, 2021
Millie Hughes-Fulford

NASA Remembers Millie Hughes-Fulford, NASA
“NASA is remembering Millie Hughes-Fulford, the first woman to fly as a NASA payload specialist, who died Thursday. Hughes-Fulford was selected as a payload specialist in January 1983 and flew in June 1991 aboard the space shuttle Columbia on the STS-40 Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS 1) mission, the first mission dedicated to biomedical studies.”

Millie Hughes-Fulford, Wikipedia
“Selected as a payload specialist by NASA in January 1983, Hughes-Fulford flew in June 1991 aboard STS-40 Spacelab Life Sciences (SLS 1), the first Spacelab mission dedicated to biomedical studies. The SLS-1 mission flew over 3.2 million miles in 146 orbits and its crew completed over 18 experiments during a nine-day period, bringing back more medical data than any previous NASA flight.”
Millie Hughes-Fulford: Scientist in Space, PBS
“Molecular biologist Millie Hughes-Fulford was the first American woman to travel into space as a working scientist in 1991. Since then, the University of California researcher has sent experiments into space that could one day help travelers going to Mars and aging people here on Earth. Ever the pioneer, her most recent experiment, in 2014, was the first to go up on a privately operated rocket.”
Keith’s note: I am heartbroken over this. I first met Millie when I started at NASA in the mid-1980s. I was supporting Spacelab 4 – which eventually became Space Life Sciences-1 (SLS-1). The mission flew on STS-40 in 1991 when I was working life science payloads at the NASA Space Station Freedom Program Office. Our paths would regularly interact over the next 30 years. Throughout her life Millie was NASA’s biggest fan and contributed a steady stream of space life science research while mentoring young researchers. Indeed, she has an experiment going up to ISS in August.
Millie was a cell/molecular biologist and was a trail blazer as the first female payload specialist to fly on a Shuttle mission. Kate Rubins, who is now in orbit, is, in many ways, the modern day Millie. As such, it would be most appropriate for Kate to say something about Millie from orbit – especially since they are working with genomic sequencing on ISS as well as with the VEGGIE unit which was dedicated to Millie’s friends and mentors Thora Halstead and Ken Souza.
Ad Astra Millie. You done good.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.