headshot of stephanie wilsonWhen Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson made her first trip to space July 4 on the STS-121 crew, she became the eighth UT engineer in space and the second African American woman to achieve that feat. The shuttle returned to earth safely on July 17.

Wilson graduated from UT Austin with a master’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1992 after being recruited by Dr. Robert Bishop, now chair of UT Austin's Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics. Her master's thesis “Substructural Controller Synthesis: A Comparison of Two Methods” drew upon both of her advisors:  Dr. Bishop's expertise in planetary exploration with emphasis on spacecraft guidance, navigation and control; and now retired Aerospace Engineering Professor Dr. Roy Craig's expertise in structural dynamics.

Later, after she was accepted into NASA's astronaut training program, she received  the Outstanding Young Texas Ex award in 2005.  

The crew of space shuttle Discovery tested new equipment and procedures that increase the safety of space shuttles during the STS-121 mission to the International Space Station. It also will perform maintenance on the space station and deliver more supplies and cargo for future station expansion.

Prior to the trip, Wilson described some of the mission's cargo: “We are bringing to the space station crew a variety of experiments. We have a -80° laboratory freezer that they will use to cool samples; we have a, a European cultivation module that they will use for their experiments; we are pre-positioning an oxygen generation system that will be used for future crews, and we are bringing them a new, Common Cabin Air Assembly for a heat exchanger in the laboratory. The old one has failed and they’ll need to replace that. We have food and clothing for them as well, and hopefully a surprise or two will be packed in there.”

Selected by NASA in April 1996, Wilson reported to the Johnson Space Center in August 1996. Wilson has been a Mission Control prime communicator with on-orbit crews and has had technical responsibilities related to space shuttle main engines, external tank and solid rocket boosters. 

Prior to NASA, she worked with Martin Marietta Astronautics Group and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Read Stephanie Wilson’s pre-flight interview from NASA.

Keep up with the shuttle's progress at www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/main/index.html