Official NASA Biography - May 2004
Shannon Walker, Mission Specialist
BORN: Houston, Texas
EDUCATION: BS, Physics, Rice University, 1987; MS, Astrophysics, Rice University, 1992; PhD, Astrophysics, Rice University, 1993
CURRENT JOB: Acting Manager, On-Orbit Engineering Office, International Space Station (ISS) Office, Johnson Space Center (JSC)
QUICK FACT: Took the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia into Mongolia and China.
QUOTE: "I also want to encourage young people to think about what the future can be like if we work together to accomplish difficult goals, such as the exploration of space."
For a city synonymous with the U.S. space program, Shannon Walker is a hometown girl made good. She was born in Houston, raised in Houston, earned three university degrees in Houston, and beginning this summer, she will begin living out her dream -- where else, but Houston.
Dr. Walker has been selected to begin astronaut training as a mission specialist at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC). "Most of my family and friends are very familiar with the human space flight program and with the excitement of becoming an astronaut," she says. "Everyone is quite thrilled."
Image left: 2004 Astronaut Candidate Shannon Walker. Click for High Resolution Image. Photo credit: NASA/Johnson Space Center.
Dr. Walker is also intimately familiar with space flight. She currently works at JSC, managing a team of engineers that monitors the health of the International Space Station. Her work has also given her the opportunity to live in Moscow, where she worked with Russian engineers, as part of the Space Station program.
"While I was there, I was able to take the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia and into Mongolia, finishing the trip in Beijing, China. It was a fascinating way to see the countryside," she says.
As an astronaut, Dr. Walker says she would like to fly to the International Space Station, and she is even hitching her star to the new Vision for Space Exploration. "I would love to fly to the moon or Mars," she says.
"I also want to encourage young people to think about what the future can be like if we work together to accomplish difficult goals, such as the exploration of space," she says.
She graduated from Westbury High School in Houston, and she holds a doctorate in astrophysics from Rice University, where she also earned her Bachelor's and Master's degrees.
Dr. Walker says she likes to be outdoors running, biking, playing soccer, camping and hiking. "During and after college, I did a lot of biking and bike touring," she says. "I enjoy traveling and seeing new places -- especially places where I can go hiking."
Dr. Walker, 38, is also licensed as a private pilot and owns her own airplane. She comes from a "fairly large" family. Her father is a physics professor and university administrator, and her mother is a computer specialist. She has three siblings and nine nieces and nephews.
"I wanted to become an astronaut because I believe that the exploration of space by humans is extremely important," she says. "I want to be part of expanding humans' role in space flight."
Birth Place: Houston, Houston.
Spaceflights: 1 .
Total time in space: 163.30 days.
Mission Specialists: Bachelor's degree in engineering, biological science, physical science or mathematics and minimum three years of related experience or an advanced degree. Vision minimum 20/150 uncorrected, correctable to 20/20. Maximum sitting blood pressure of 140/90. Height between 150 and 193 cm.. Due to a surplus of astronauts and a dearth of missions, NASA cancelled the planned 2002 astronaut selection. The next call for applications was made in May 2003, with a due date of 1 July. 'Educator astronauts' were especially requested, and 1100 applications were received in this category. The final selection was two pilots and nine mission specialists; nine men and two women. Given the drastic reduction if shuttle flights and ISS crew size planned for the post-Columbia disaster period, the chances for astronauts from this group flying in the next decade seemed slim indeed. Also training in this group were three NASDA astronauts from Japan.