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Colonel (Ret’d) Pamela Melroy

Pamela Melroy is a retired Air Force test pilot and former NASA astronaut and Space Shuttle commander.

She was commissioned in the United States Air Force and served as a KC-10 copilot, aircraft commander, and instructor pilot. Melroy is a veteran of Operation Just Cause and Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, with over 200 combat and combat support hours. She went on to attend the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base, California. Upon her graduation, she was assigned to the C-17 Combined Test Force, where she served as a test pilot until her selection for the Astronaut Program. She has logged more than 6,000 hours flight time in more than 50 different aircraft.

Selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in December 1994, Melroy reported to the Johnson Space Center, Texas, in March 1995. She flew three missions in space: as Space Shuttle pilot during STS-92 in 2000 and STS-112 in 2002, and as Space Shuttle Commander during STS-120 in 2007. All three missions were assembly missions to build the International Space Station. She is one of only two women to command the Space Shuttle. While an astronaut, she held a variety of positions to include performing astronaut support duties for launch and landing and Capsule Communicator (CAPCOM) duties in mission control. Melroy served on the Columbia Reconstruction Team as the lead for the crew module and served as Deputy Project Manager for the Columbia Crew Survival Investigation Team. In her final position, she served as Branch Chief for the Orion branch of the Astronaut Office. She has logged more than 924 hours (more than 38 days) in space.

Colonel Melroy retired from the Air Force in 2007, and left NASA in August 2009. After NASA, she served as Deputy Program manager for the Lockheed Martin Orion Space Exploration Initiatives program and as Director of Field Operations and acting Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation at the Federal Aviation Administration. She went on to serve as Deputy Director, Tactical Technology Office at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Pam Melroy now is Director, Space Technology and Policy at Nova Systems. Colonel Melroy was interviewed for the WDSN in June, 2018.

Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us Pam! Can we start by talking some more about how you got into the space industry?

I knew that I wanted to be an astronaut shortly after seeing the first moon landing in 1969. By the time Apollo 17 became the last mission to the moon, I knew I wanted to be an astronaut. The only astronauts I knew about were military jet test pilots, so I decided that was what I was going to do, too. Of course later, flying in space was opened to scientists and engineers, but by then I had fallen in love with flying and was determined to pursue a course in that direction. I went to the United States Test Pilot School and after flying as a test pilot for several years I was selected to become an astronaut. I had a fantastic experience at NASA, eventually becoming a Space Shuttle commander. But the industry is a big one, and I was determined to do things that helped more people get to space. So I have worked in industry and government since then to make it happen!</p> <p><strong>What advice do you have for women wanting to get into the space industry?</strong></p> <p>I always encourage young people to become an expert if possible, through the work that they do or through getting a PhD or other advanced degree. It’s a real differentiator. And especially for women, I tell them to keep the eye on the future and be persistent.</p> <p><strong>What books are currently on your bedside table?</strong></p> <p><a data-cke-saved-href=" />Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour by Lynne Olson; Into the Black: The Extraordinary Untold Story of the First Flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia and the Astronauts Who Flew Her, by Rowland White and Dick Truly, and a military science fiction book called Ashes of Victory by David Weber. Perhaps all predictable!


As one of only two women to command the Space Shuttle, what do you see as the main challenges in encouraging more women to get involved in the space industry?

I think that we are not having problems encouraging more women to get involved in space; the challenge is retaining them by making sure they see a future career path.

ASPI’s international conference for 2018 is all about how Australia can build a more long-term, strategic strategy for space. In your opinion, what can Australia offer to the international space arena that isn’t already there?

Australia has a tremendous amount to offer – first, the geographical location is ideal for such capabilities as more ground stations in the summer hemisphere; second, a robust high-tech community, from world-class universities to start-ups and large businesses; third, a lack of baggage in both physical and policy infrastructure as the space business is rapidly changing. It’s very exciting to be a part of it.

Finally, who inspires you?

The people I find most inspiring are those who balance passion for a better world and the pragmatism to achieve it. I have been very inspired by many in the space industry, especially the startup community in Australia. There is an electric spark that jumps in me when I meet someone who “gets it,” who embraces change with a desire to surf it and shape it.

Updated: 18 Dec 2018