“Rocket Woman”: from space engineers to museums


Linda (Getch) Dawson ’71 grew up long between the US and the USSR. He remembers driving with his family to the theater to hear the sound of a Soviet Sputnik satellite passing. “It’s funny how your path changes so much, but I always get back to the first love: flying,” he says. Dawson’s approach took her from MIT to NASA, then to a second job as a teacher and writer, giving her the nickname “Rocket Woman” from her co-workers and journalists.

WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY, TACOMA

Dawson says his “most exciting career” in space was working as a pilot at the Johnson Space Center in Houston at NASA. He was in his late 70’s, and he was part of a team of supervisors and guides who were responsible for ensuring that the spacecraft restored air quality. He ran “unlimited tests with pilots and pilots” to determine the amount of fuel that would be needed on the first trip, calculating the most serious failures. He was in charge of overseeing the work during the start-up and re-start, running some further to better explain the flight rules and how things have changed. “When you fly very fast and all of a sudden, everything happens so fast that you don’t have a chance to search the book to see what to do if something goes wrong,” he says. He left NASA after the natural disasters of Challenger and Columbia before he showed that human flying could be dangerous – but he will share his thoughts on these problems years later in his first book.

After NASA and other locations at Boeing Aerospace, Dawson spent more than 20 years as a senior lecturer at the University of Washington, Tacoma, where he conducted a study of women in science and history and space science. But, he says, “I didn’t make sense [space] a book that fulfills what I think should be summarized – either it was a great art or it was a children’s book. That’s why Dawson thought about his writing. Politics and Risks of Exploration (Springer, 2017, is the second release this year) and War in the Sky (Springer, 2018) explain the history of the space program and analyze the complex politics of today’s research space where various companies and countries are competing for resources and resources.

After retiring from the teaching profession, Dawson continues to write and teach at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, where he volunteers for a long time. “In the museum there are new generations of young people who still want to learn rocket and learn about space,” he says. “It’s wonderful to see this.”



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