Astronaut inspires Warner Robins Middle School girls

awoolen@macon.comApril 2, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- When Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger was in middle school, she dreamed about becoming an astronaut.

Last week, the former high school science teacher brought her dream-come-true message to other young girls at Warner Robins Middle School.

One of her idols was Sally Ride, who was the first woman in space.

In 2004, NASA chose Metcalf-Lindenburger as an astronaut candidate, and on April 5, 2010, she flew on a mission into space.

She vividly remembers getting the phone call while teaching her third period ninth-grade class at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, Wash.

“I started screaming,” Metcalf-Lindenburger said.

At Warner Robins Middle on March 25, dozens of girls were nearly as excited to get a chance to ask the astronaut questions, and one lucky seventh-grader got a picture.

“I got a selfie with her,” Anya Campbell said, showing off her phone to several of her friends.

About 50 seventh- and eighth-grade girls were selected by their teachers for showing an interest in the sciences, said Brandy Farrell, assistant principal of instruction.

“It’s a once in a lifetime event for girls to get to experience something like this,” Farrell said.

As part of her presentation, Metcalf-Lindenburger showed a video of her 15 days in space.

The space station she worked at orbited the Earth every 90 minutes, so the group experienced a sunrise and sunset every 45 minutes.

“One of our favorite things was to look out the window,” said Metcalf-Lindenburger.

Through the windows, she saw lightning storms over Australia and viewed the Milky Way without the effects of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Metcalf-Lindenburger’s job was a flight engineer and a robotic arm operator. She kept up the checklist between crew members and the ground during space walks.

On the first day at the space station, Metcalf-Lindenburger said she got space sickness.

At the end of the presentation, students asked a variety of questions including how the astronauts went to the bathroom in their space suits and whether Metcalf-Lindenburger was scared.

“I was definitely aware I could die,” she said.

As far as using the bathroom, the astronauts used diapers while they were in their suits for seven to eight hours at a time during space walks.

The crew also had 2½ hours of mandatory exercise per day to combat the muscle atrophy the body experiences in space.

“The space environment was very harsh,” she said.

Even keeping clean was a challenge, such as shampooing hair with water in pouches.

Though the mission was mostly work and there was very little free time, one of Metcalf-Lindenburger’s favorite things to do was float.

“I’m never going to be able to do that here on Earth again,” she said.

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