Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Sen. Kaufman Recognizes Great Federal Employee, Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger

April 20, 2010

Forty-nine years ago, President Kennedy stood before Congress and offered a bold profession of his faith in American innovation. Convening a special joint session to share with the American people his plans for economic recovery and global leadership, President Kennedy challenged us to reach the Moon in 9 years. He reminded us that leading the way in exploring space was central to leading a vibrant innovation economy, and that the causes of economic recovery and national security would benefit from investing in a Moon shot, and that the newly free around the world, caught between East and West, would draw inspiration from such a difficult mission undertaken by a free people. He challenged us to reach the Moon in 9 years. We made it there in 8 years.

   Kennedy's call echoed a timeless adage: ``Ad Astra Per Aspera''--to the stars through rough times.

   When we are faced with difficult challenges, we look for inspiration beyond the bounds of our farthest frontier. We can choose, despite uncertainty, to be forward looking and set lofty goals. That, more than anything, is the mission of those great Federal employees who work at the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, NASA.

   I was among those called to the study of engineering in the late 1950s during the years of Sputnik and the start of the space station. We benefited not only from the amount of investment the government was making in STEM fields, but also by the strong sense of purpose the space program inspired in all of us.

   America's reach into space is intricately linked with our need to train the next generation of scientists, engineers, technologists, and mathematicians who will drive our 21st century innovation economy, and I know there is no one in the Senate any more committed to STEM education than the Presiding Officer.

   That is why I have chosen this week to honor a great Federal employee from NASA who spent the last 2 weeks orbiting the Earth on STS-131 and has dedicated her career to promoting STEM education.

   Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger is one of NASA's new educator astronauts. A native of Fort Collins, CO, Dottie, as she is called, took an unusual path to space. As a child, Dottie was always fascinated with astronomy and space exploration. When she narrowly lost a contest to win a free trip to space camp, her parents saved up enough money for her to go. It turned out to be an excellent investment not only in their daughter's future, but also in the many students Dottie has inspired.

   Dottie pursued her love of science at Whitman College, where she majored in geology. She began teaching Earth science and astronomy at Hudson's Bay High School in Vancouver, WA, in 1999. In her 5 years there as a science teacher, she won awards for achievement. An avid marathon runner, Dottie also coached the school's cross-country team.

   In 2003, one of her students asked a question that would change her life. The student curiously asked: How do Full Document: Congressional Record Full Textastronauts use the bathroom in space? When Dottie went on line to research the answer for her student, she discovered on NASA's Web site a recruitment call for teachers to join the space program. She jumped at the chance, though it was a long shot. Over 8,000 teachers applied.

   Dottie was one of three who made it and is currently NASA's youngest active astronaut.

   She joined NASA in 2004 and began the rigorous, 2-year Astronaut Candidate Training. Dottie learned how to fly jets and operate complex space shuttle and International Space Station systems. She undertook scientific and technical briefings, engaged in physiological training, and practiced water and wilderness survival skills. As an educator astronaut, Dottie works with NASA's education program, helping to develop new ways to bring space and STEM subjects into the classroom and inspiring girls and boys alike to follow in her footsteps by studying science.

   When she is not training to be a mission specialist on the shuttle, running a marathon, or singing lead vocals for an astronaut band, Dottie is also inspiring her own daughter. She and her husband Jason, who is a history teacher, have taught their 3-year-old daughter, Cambria, how to sing ``Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'' and other songs about the Sun and the Moon.

   On April 5, Dottie and the rest of the crew of Discovery's STS-131 mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral for a 2-week trip to the International Space Station. Dottie's primary tasks were overseeing the transition of the station's computers to a new Ethernet network and orchestrating the space walks conducted by two of her colleagues. She also recorded a video to help promote robotics, science, and engineering.

   Dottie sees her role as a teacher for all, helping to make science exciting for adults and children alike. She and her husband even built a telescope that they brought on summer vacation, and wherever they stopped they would encourage people to look through it at objects like Jupiter or the Moon.

   She said, ``Wherever we go out in our solar system, from a teaching standpoint, I really hope that students are engaged in learning math and science. We should always try to be a leader in this.''

   America's astronauts--like Dottie--carry out important work with far-reaching impact.

   Once again we find ourselves as a nation in difficult times, just as we were when President Kennedy challenged us to look skyward.

   Just last week, President Obama laid out his vision for the future of American space exploration. No matter what their next mission, it will be carried out by NASA employees.

   The outstanding public servants at NASA give flight to our dreams and remind us that, in America, when we will it, there is no impediment to grand achievement.

   ``Ad Astra Per Aspera.'' Let us look once more, in these rough times, to the stars--to the limits of space and those who would take us there.

   Let us recommit ourselves to inspiring students, just as astronauts like Dottie do each day, to study science, math, engineering, and technology in pursuit of innovation in space and here on Earth.

   I hope my colleagues will join me in thanking Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger and her crewmates from STS-131 for their hard work and contribution. We welcome them home.

   They are all truly great Federal employees.

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