A Black History Month look at NASA’s Lieutenant Colonel Michael P. Anderson

While there are actually quite a few Black astronauts, two names that immediately come to my mind are Mae Jemison and Ronald E. McNair. The TRIO program which led me to my graduate research was actually named after Ronald E. McNair who died during the tragic launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger STS-51-L. Since volunteering at the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium, I’ve become aware another Black astronaut; Colonel Michael P. Anderson. Michael P. Anderson was a member of the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 which disintegrated upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere on February 1, 2003. Anderson served as the ‘Payload Commander’ and the ‘Lieutenant Colonel’ in charge of science experiments on the Columbia.

A biography of astronaut Michael P. Anderson is readily available on line, but just briefly, he was born into a military family in Plattsburgh, NY but grew up in Spokane, Washington. He earned his Bachelor of science degree in physics and astronomy from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1981, and in 1990 he was awarded his Master of science degree in physics from Creighton University. Colonel Anderson entered NASA by way of the United States Airforce where he was selected for astronaut training being one of the 19 candidates selected from 2,962 total applicants. Prior to the STS-107 mission, Anderson participated in the STS-89 Endeavour mission.

The Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 disaster occurred due to critical damage to the shuttle’s ‘orbiter’ when foam from the fuel tank’s insulation fell off and tore a hole in Columbia’s left wing. During re-entry, the hole allowed super-hot atmospheric gases to penetrate the orbiter’s wing, leading to its destruction. The other astronauts in the crew included:

• Rick D. Husband
• William C. McCool
• Kalpana Chawla
• David M. Brown
• Laurel Clark
• Ilan Ramon

The picture of the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-107 and its crew used in this post was provided by David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium.

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Author: anwaryusef

Anwar Y. Dunbar is a Regulatory Scientist. Being a naturally curious person, he is also a student of all things. He earned his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan and his Bachelor’s Degree in General Biology from Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU). Prior to starting the Big Words Blog Site, Anwar published and contributed to numerous research articles in competitive scientific journals reporting on his research from graduate school and postdoctoral years. After falling in love with writing, he contributed to the now defunct Examiner.com, and the Edvocate where he regularly wrote about: Education-related stories/topics, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Financial Literacy; as well as conducted interviews with notable individuals such as actor and author Hill Harper. Having many influences, one of his most notable heroes is author, intellectual and speaker, Malcolm Gladwell, author of books including Outliers and David and Goliath. Anwar has his hands in many, many activities. In addition to writing, Anwar actively mentors youth, works to spread awareness of STEM careers, serves on the Board of Directors of the Friends of the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium, serves as Treasurer for the JCSU Washington, DC Alumni Chapter, and is active in the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace Ministry at the Alfred Street Baptist Church. He also tutors in the subjects of biology, chemistry and physics. Along with his multi-talented older brother Amahl Dunbar (designer of the Big Words logos, inventor and a plethora of other things), Anwar is a “Fanboy” and really enjoys Science-Fiction and Superhero movies including but not restricted to Captain America Civil War, Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and Prometheus. He is a proud native of Buffalo, NY.

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