Millie Hughes-Fulford, NASA’s first female payload specialist in space, dies at 75

The first American lady to launch into house who was not an expert astronaut however a working scientist, Millie Hughes-Fulford, has died at the age of 75.Hughes-Fulford’s loss of life was confirmed by the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) on Thursday (Feb. 4).”We are grateful for her research and advancements with her work in the life sciences. Please join us in expressing our sympathy to Millie’s family and friends at this time,” Caroline Schumacher, ASF president and chief government officer, wrote in an e-mail.NASA’s house shuttle program in photos: A tributeSTS-40 payload specialist Millie Hughes-Fulford works contained in the Space Life Sciences-1 (SLS-1) Spacelab module contained in the house shuttle Columbia’s payload bay in June 1991. (Image credit score: NASA)Originally chosen by NASA in 1983 to coach as a non-career astronaut for a science-dedicated house shuttle mission, Hughes-Fulford’s first and solely launch was delayed by the 1986 Challenger tragedy. Lifting off on the house shuttle Columbia on June 5, 1991, Hughes-Fulford turned the first female payload specialist to enter orbit and a member of the first crew to incorporate three girls.She was additionally the first particular person to fly into house to characterize the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), having been a molecular biologist at the VA medical heart in San Francisco at the time.”It was a life’s dream, and not many of us get our life’s dream,” Hughes-Fulford stated in a 2014 interview with the VA.”I was watching Buck Rogers in 1950 when I was 5 years old, and their pilot was a woman named Wilma Deering. I wanted to be Wilma Deering because she could wear pants. At that time a little girl could not go around in pants. I would sneak off in my pair of Levi’s and I would hear, ‘Get out of those Levi’s, put your dress on!'” she stated. “And so I wanted to be Wilma Deering because she could wear anything she wanted to, she flew a spaceship and was a professional woman.””It was a dream and it turned into reality, which was awfully nice,” she stated.Millie Hughes-Fulford at the European Space Agency’s Life and Physical Sciences and Life Support Laboratory at ESTEC technical heart in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in April 2013.  (Image credit score: ESA)As a member of the STS-40 crew, Hughes-Fulford was liable for overseeing a number of the experiments aboard Spacelab Life Sciences 1 (SLS-1), the fifth Spacelab mission and the first devoted solely to biomedical analysis. As a cell biologist, one in every of her duties was to assist in the gathering of her crewmates’ blood.”It wasn’t like you just drew a tube of blood and put in the refrigerator. It was, you have to do a finger stick and get a hematocrit. You have to draw blood for this and spin it and separate the serum from the blood. You have to put this one in the refrigerator right away. It was like you collect six or seven things for each draw, and then you’ve got four people, so you’ve got lots of different moving parts,” stated Rhea Seddon, one in every of Hughes-Fulford’s STS-40 crewmates, in a 2011 NASA oral historical past interview.The STS-40 crew accomplished greater than 18 experiments (together with 10 involving people, seven involving rodents and one with jellyfish) and returned to Earth with extra medical information than any prior NASA spaceflight. “We’re at 140% of what we expected to do,” Hughes-Fulford stated in a televised interview whereas in house.But even after logging 9 days, 2 hours, 14 minutes and a pair of seconds off the planet, Hughes-Fulford’s mission was not over. Together with Seddon, mission specialist Jim Bagian and fellow payload specialist Drew Gaffney, Hughes-Fulford remained for every week at the touchdown web site to proceed offering information on how the human physique readjusted to gravity.Related: Weightlessness and its results on astronautsSTS-40 payload specialist Millie Hughes-Fulford flies via the Spacelab module in house shuttle Columbia’s payload bay in June 1991. (Image credit score: NASA)Millie Elizabeth Hughes-Fulford was born in Mineral Wells, Texas, on Dec. 21, 1945. Entering school at the age of 16, she earned her Bachelor of Science diploma in chemistry and biology from Tarleton State University in 1968, after which studied plasma chemistry at Texas Woman’s University as a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellow from 1968 to 1971.Upon finishing her doctorate at Texas Women’s University in 1972, Hughes-Fulford joined the school of Southwestern Medical School at the University of Texas, Dallas as a postdoctoral fellow, the place her analysis targeted on the regulation of ldl cholesterol metabolism. She additionally served as a significant in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps from 1981 via 1995.At first assigned to backup payload specialist Robert Phillips on the SLS-1 (STS-40) mission, Hughes-Fulford joined the prime crew after Phillips was medically disqualified from flight.Following her spaceflight, Hughes-Fulford returned to the VA medical heart in San Francisco, the place she turned director of the laboratory that now bears her title. She was a contributor to greater than 120 papers and abstracts on T-cell activation, bone and most cancers progress regulation and continued to conduct analysis in house because the principal investigator for experiments that flew aboard STS-76 in March 1996, STS-81 in January 1997 and STS-84 in May 1997, analyzing the foundation causes of osteoporosis that happen in astronauts whereas in microgravity.She additionally flew experiments aboard Soyuz and SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station, learning the lower in T-cell activation — a medical drawback that was first discovered in returning Apollo astronauts — and the way remoted T-cells have been activated in spaceflight. (T-cells are a kind of white blood cell that’s of significance to the physique’s immune system.)”If you think of it, we all evolved in a gravity field. When we go into spaceflight and we have microgravity, we have eliminated one variable. In mathematics, if you get rid of a variable, you can solve the equation, and we’re able to look at the immune system in a whole new way that has not been possible,” Hughes-Fulford stated in a video interview for the ISS National Laboratory in 2015.A recipient of the NASA Space Flight Medal in 1991, Hughes-Fulford’s analysis on board the house station was awarded by NASA as a Top Discovery on ISS.Hughes-Fulford was married to George Fulford, who preceded her in loss of life. She is survived by their daughter, Tori Herzog.Follow on Facebook and on Twitter at @collectSPACE. Copyright 2021 All rights reserved.

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