UC Irvine alum is now a NASA astronaut

by LORI BASHEDA

Tracy Caldwell Dyson was in the science building at UC Irvine when the phone call came in.

A man from NASA asked if she wanted to join the Astronaut Corps.

Caldwell Dyson, who was wrapping up her first year of a post doc fellowship to study atmospheric chemistry, started to hyperventilate.

“I went racing through the halls up to the fourth floor screaming, ‘I made it! I made it!’”

Her mentors, UC Irvine professors Barbara Finlayson-Pitts and John Hemminger, joined the celebration.

“We were all jumping up and down and crying and laughing,” she says.

Caldwell Dyson was one of only 25 (of 5,000 applicants) selected in 1997 to become an astronaut.

She is now a veteran of two space flights and has logged more than 188 days in space, including 22 hours in spacewalks.

“You are your own little satellite out there in the vacuum of space,” she says. “It’s an amazing thing.”

She works at the Space Center in Houston but remains friends with her UC Irvine mentors and classmates.

“I have very meaningful relationships there,” she says. “It was the best place for me to go to develop as a professional. It was a beautiful time.”