Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Navy Veteran Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, who served as a salvage officer and a NASA astronaut.
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. She attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on a Navy Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship and graduated with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering in 1984. She stayed an additional year to earn her master’s degree in 1985.
Stefanyshyn-Piper completed training as a Navy basic diving officer and salvage officer at the Naval Diving and Salvage Training Center in Panama City, Florida. After training, she served as an engineering duty officer and as maintenance staff at several ship repair facilities including Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard. While onboard USS Grapple (ARS 53), she qualified as a surface warfare officer; participated in the salvage of the Peruvian submarine Pacocha; and helped in the de-stranding of Exxon tanker Houston off the coast of Barber’s Point, on Oahu, Hawaii.
In 1996, Stefanyshyn-Piper was selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate and reported to the Johnson Space Center, in Houston, Texas, for two years of training. Her first spaceflight was aboard the STS-115 Atlantis, during a 12-day flight in September 2006. The mission was to deliver and install the P3/P4 Truss and two sets of solar arrays that generate electricity for the International Space Station (ISS). Stefanyshyn-Piper served the role of extravehicular crewmember No. 2. During the flight, she went on two spacewalks where she assisted in installing the truss and replacing an S-Band Antenna, an important transmission device.
Her second space flight was on the STS-126 Endeavour in November 2008. The 16-day mission served to deliver a new bathroom; kitchen; two bedrooms; exercise machine; and a water recycling system to the ISS to expand the living quarters to house a six-member crew. Stefanyshyn -Piper served as the lead spacewalker, performing three of the spacewalks to make repairs and installations.
During her time as NASA’s Astronaut Office Representative for Payloads, Stefanyshyn-Piper supported launch and landing. She left NASA in August 2009 and reported to Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) as a chief technology officer. In May 2011, she assumed the role of commanding officer at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division in West Bethesda, Maryland. Then in July 2013, she took command of the Southwest Regional Maintenance Center in San Diego, California, for non-nuclear ship maintenance. In 2015, Stefanyshyn-Piper retired from the Navy as a captain after 30 years of active service.
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Writer: Aubrey Benton
Editors: Nicolas Nunnaly and Theresa Lyon
Fact checker: Yuki Harry
Graphic artist: Brittany Gorski