During Women’s History Month, today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Wendy B. Lawrence, the first female Naval Academy graduate to become an astronaut.
As a U.S. Navy officer and NASA astronaut, Wendy B. Lawrence spent over 20 years of her life serving her country both on planet Earth and in outer space.
Born into a Naval family in Jacksonville, Florida, her father was a U.S. Navy vice admiral. In 1977, she graduated from Fort Hunt High School in Alexandria, Virginia. She followed in her father’s footsteps, enrolling at the Naval Academy. Earning her Bachelor of Science degree in ocean engineering, she later achieved the designation of naval aviator in July 1982.
She flew aircraft throughout most of the 1980s, logging more than 1,500 hours as a helicopter pilot in six different types of helicopters. Lawrence served on several shipboard deployments to the North Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Kenya. While stationed at Helicopter Combat Support Squadron SIX (HC-6) she became one of the first two female helicopter pilots to make a long deployment to the Indian Ocean as part of a carrier battle group.
Lawrence completed a master’s degree in ocean engineering from a dual program offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, graduating in 1988. In 1990 she became a physics instructor and novice women’s crew coach at the Naval Academy. For the next two years she coached her team to first and second place finishes at the Dad Vail Regatta.
In March 1992, NASA selected her to become an astronaut, the first female Naval Academy graduate to earn the distinction. Completing a one-year training course she became a mission specialist. She went on to take part in four space flights, logging over 1,225 hours in space, from 1995 to 2005. Lawrence’s technical assignments included flight software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory (SAIL), astronaut office assistant training officer, director of operations for NASA at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, and astronaut office representative for space station training and crew support.
Throughout Lawrence’s many years of service she received many awards. In 1986 she received the National Navy League’s Captain Winifred Collins Award for inspirational leadership. She also receive a Defense Superior Service Medal, a Defense Meritorious Service Medal, a NASA Space Flight Medal, a Navy Commendation Medal and a Navy Achievement Medal. She is a member of Phi Kappa Phi, the Naval Helicopter Association, Women Military Aviators and the Association of Naval Aviation.
Lawrence retired from NASA in 2006 and now works part-time at Space Camp and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, informing the public about NASA’s spaceflight programs and participating in STEM education programs.
Thank you for your service!
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Writer: Jaasmine Stephens
Graphic artist: Alyssa Morford