Today’s Illustration: How in heaven’s name had I gotten here? 

Who: Margaret Rhea Seddon

  • Rhea was born in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, November 8, 1947 (age 74 as of this post)
  • B.A. in physiology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1970
  • Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Tennessee College of Medicine in 1973
  • Married to former astronaut Robert L. Gibson of Cooperstown, New York
  • They had four children.
  • Selected by NASA as a possible astronaut — January 1978
  • Was aboard three flights — 1985 (Discovery), 1991 (Columbia), and 1993 (Columbia)
  • She was the payload commander on her third flight in 1993
  • She spent 19 years with NASA
  • Retired from NASA in 1997
  • In 2015 she was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame

When: 1978

What: One of the first of six women astronauts in U.S. history

Quotes:

“I don’t think I necessarily did it to be a pioneer,” she says. “There were things I wanted to do, and to a certain extent, I was curious to know whether or not women could be successful in those fields.”

“Many times I thought, ‘I’m not going to be able to do this.  But I figured I could try and maybe figure out how to do it in a slightly different way or kind of go around the roadblock.”

Among the many roadblocks for the smallest astronaut in the program was the parachute so big Seddon would have fallen out had it not been refitted and the man-sized spacesuit that was too costly to adjust.

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Sometimes, you have to dream big and apply where you don’t think you’re going to get in, but you have to try and don’t be afraid to go first.

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“Carolyn Huntoon helped us get through it. She was there to advise. We would get together with her periodically and ask about, “How do you get ahead in this organization and what are the things you need to not do?” One of her I think words of wisdom was, “The most important thing that you can do here is to use good judgment. Whatever you do, use good judgment,” because if you do dumb stuff and off-the-wall stuff and things that you shouldn’t be doing, NASA doesn’t appreciate that. Whether it’s public or no one in the public knows it, but we know you did it, it could go against you. I think that proved to be so over the course of time.” — oral history

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In her book, she states . . . . .

I looked up at the rocket that awaited me, gleaming huge, ungainly and pristine white in the pre-dawn darkness. . . . I had only moments to take it all in.  It was the first time I stood next to a shuttle ready to launch . . .  There are moments in each life that change everything. “Will you marry me?” “You’ve been accepted.” “You’re pregnant.”  If I survived the launch of this vehicle, I would become one of the fewer than ten women in history of humankind who had ventured into the halls of space. . . .

The fullness of my life had brought me to this moment. All the unlikely roads taken, the risks addressed, the difficulties overcome had led to this. . . .  We would sit atop the harnessed bomb until its fuse was lit. This was the culmination of years of preparation; there could be no turning back. How in heaven’s name had I gotten here?  . . . .

My father would have preferred that I pursue a degree in law to be able to take over his practice and run his business. . . . Isn’t it funny how little things can send you down an important pathway in life? In my hometown, Rutherford County Hospital was opening its first Coronary Care Unit, of CCU, the summer after my freshman year at Berkley . . . . . It was all arranged that I would be a summer aide in the new Intensive Care Unit . . . . The problem was the unit’s opening was delayed, and I was redirected into the surgical suite and fell in love with surgery. . . .
[see pdf of three pages from her book which also make that point]

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In an interview, Rhea Seddon states . . .

“you know when the wheels stop on the runway and you’re home I mean it’s just this great relief and exuberance, especially when the flight went well and we knew we had done a great job.
. . . . and I think that was one of the most wonderful things in my life is when we roll to a stop on my third flight, and I thought we did it — we did it, we did everything we were supposed to do and more

Key Biblical Thoughts:

  • woman
  • trials
  • roadblocks
  • triumph
  • barriers
  • success
  • coming back home
  • attainment
  • good judgment
  •  home
  • providence
  • the little things of life
  •  God’s will

Sermonic Example: There are several distinct ways to use illustrative material.  This sermonic example will employ the second method of introductory illustrations — method #2.

(use whatever you find useful in the above details)

. . . . In an interview, Rhea Seddon says this about one of her most exhilarating moments as an astronaut. . .

you know when the wheels stop on the runway and you’re home I mean it’s just this great relief and exuberance, especially when the flight went well and we knew we had done a great job
. . . . and I think that was one of the most wonderful things in my life is when we roll to a stop on my third flight and I thought we did it — we did it we did everything we were supposed to do and more. . . . 

One day, we will have that experience as we arrive HOME!  — hopefully having done all that we were supposed to do  . . . . and hearing the words, “Well done!”


Other Information & Links:
Click Here For The PDF of the Whole Transcript

NASA Johnson Space Center Oral History Project
Edited Oral History Transcript

Margaret Rhea Seddon
Interviewed by Jennifer Ross-Nazzal
Murfreesboro, Tennessee – 20 May 2010

Ross-Nazzal: Today is May 20th, 2010. This interview with Rhea Seddon is being conducted in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the JSC Oral History Project. The interviewer is Jennifer Ross-Nazzal, assisted by Rebecca Wright. Thanks again for agreeing to spend some time with us today. We certainly appreciate it. Know your schedule is busy.

Seddon: It is.

Ross-Nazzal: I’d like to begin by asking you about how closely you followed the early space program.

Seddon: I don’t think I followed it really any closer than most of the kids my age growing up. It was exciting. It was in the news. I can remember that we stopped classes to watch TV. I can remember just being fascinated by the whole thing. I kind of got to see the beginning of it, because we went out and watched Sputnik at night. I was old enough to understand what was going on when Sputnik launched. So I think I followed it the way other kids did. I was not one of those people who suddenly became focused on space. I was a little girl growing up in a small Southern town, taking piano lessons and ballet lessons, and assuming that I would be like my mother and be a nice wife in a nice home someday.

It never occurred to me that that would be a potential career or would be something that was open to me at the time, but I thought it was incredibly exciting.

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Go For Orbit, by Rhea Seddon
“The fullness of my life had brought me to this moment. All the unlikely roads taken, the risks addressed, the difficulties overcome had led to this. The ride up the clanking rusty elevator which had withstood the blast of Apollo and earlier Shuttle flights would be my first upward push of that day. Across the narrow Orbiter access arm and into the belly of the beast or butterfly the men and I clamored, brave or feigning bravery, with the bravado of the fighter pilots we were or had come to emulate. We would sit atop the harnessed bomb until its fuse was lit. This was the culmination of years of preparation; there could be no turning back. How in heaven’s name had I gotten here?”
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As one of the first female astronauts, Dr. Rhea Seddon was a pioneer in every sense of that word.  Many books have been written by the men of the space program, but only a rare few by the women and fewer yet by the original six and NONE by own hand.. . . Rhea’s book will give the reader a first glimpse into things that have never before been revealed through the perspective of a woman: the walk through the doors of the ultimate men’s club…the astronaut office…and all the barrier-breaking resistance that act entailed; the competition for the most coveted of titles, “First American Woman In Space”; the transcendental joy of spaceflight; the agony of Challenger; the fear that her own life dream might ultimately leave her children motherless; the extreme stress of the job on her marriage; the exhausting burden of competing with men under the microscope of the press.   You might have thought everything that could be said about astronauts and spaceflight has been said.  Not so, as I’m sure Astronaut Rhea Seddon’s new book will prove! – Astronaut Mike Mullane Author, Riding Rockets, The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle Astronaut”
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