NASA Names Second Female Shuttle Commander

NASA Names Second Female Shuttle Commander
NASA Astronaut Pamela Melroy, STS-112 pilot, holds camera equipment as she floats in the Zvezda Service Module on the International Space Station (ISS) in October 2002. (Image credit: NASA/JSC.)

Astronaut PamelaMelroy, a two-time shuttle pilot, will become the second woman to command aNASA shuttle when she leads the upcoming STS-120 mission to the InternationalSpace Station (ISS), the space agency said Monday.

Melroy, aU.S. Air Force colonel hailing from Rochester, New York, will command a crew ofsix astronauts charged with delivering a new connecting node to the ISS. Builtfor NASA in Italy, the Node2 module will serve as a link between other habitable space stationcompartments.

Joining Melroyon the STS-120 mission - currently the fifth shuttle flight to fly after NASA'sSTS-121spaceflight launches next month - are pilot GeorgeZamka, mission specialists ScottParazynski, Douglas Wheelock, MichaelForeman and Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli of the European Space Agency(ESA).

Melroy isonly the second female astronaut to command a U.S. orbiter after shuttleveteran EileenCollins, who led NASA's STS-114return to flight mission in 2005 and retired inMay 2006. Collins first commanded a shuttle mission in 1999 after serving aspilot on two previous flights.

Selected tojoin NASA's astronaut corps in 1994, Melroy served as shuttle pilot aboard theDiscovery orbiter during STS-92,an ISS construction mission that launchedon Oct. 11, 2000. She also served as pilot for the STS-112shuttleflight aboard Atlantis during its ISS-bound mission in 2002.

Melroy joinedthe U.S. Air Force in 1983 after earning a degree in physics and astronomy fromWellesley College. She also earned a master's degree in Earth and planetarysciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1984, NASA said.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.