Shannon Lucid was born on January 14, 1943, in Shanghai, China, but considers Bethany, Oklahoma, her hometown. The daughter of missionaries, she was born as a captive along with her parents, aunts, an uncle, and her grandparents, in the Japanese Army’s Chapei Civil Assembly Center prison camp in China during World War II. In 1944, Shannon and her parents were repatriated to the United States as part of a peaceful exchange of noncombatant citizens. After her family spent the rest of the war years in Fort Worth, Texas, they returned to China but eventually settled in Oklahoma.
Shannon Lucid graduated from Bethany High School in 1960; received a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Oklahoma in 1963, and Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees, both in Biochemistry, from the University of Oklahoma in 1970 and 1973, respectively.
Lucid was a teaching assistant at the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Chemistry from 1963 to 1964, then a senior laboratory technician at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation from 1964 to 1966 and a chemist at Kerr-McGee, Oklahoma City, 1966 to 1968. In 1969, she became a graduate assistant at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. She was a research associate with the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation in Oklahoma City from 1974 until her selection to the astronaut candidate-training program in January 1978. Shannon Lucid is a commercial, instrument, and multi-engine rated pilot; she had dreamed of being a pilot since her first airplane ride, at the age of five.
Dr. Lucid became an astronaut in August 1979 and has flown on five space flights. She has logged 5,354 hours (223.08 days) in space, which was the most by any woman until 2007 when her record was broken by Peggy Whitson. She served as a mission specialist on STS-51G, STS-34, STS-43, STS-58, and as a Board Engineer 2 on Russia’s Mir Space Station.
Lucid first entered space aboard STS-51G Discovery (June 17 to 24, 1985), launched from Kennedy Space Center, Florida (KSC), as were all her shuttle missions. She helped deploy communications satellites for Mexico, the Arab League, and the United States. The crew also used the Remote Manipulator System to deploy and later retrieve the SPARTAN satellite, which performed seventeen hours of x-ray astronomy experiments while separated from the Space Shuttle. STS-51G traveled 2.5 million miles in 112 orbits of the Earth in 169 hours and 39 minutes before landing at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
Lucid’s next spaceflight was STS-34 Atlantis, from October 18 to 23, 1989. Lucid helped deploy the Galileo spacecraft on its journey to explore Jupiter, operated the Shuttle Solar Backscatter Ultraviolet Instrument to map atmospheric ozone, and performed numerous secondary experiments involving radiation measurements, polymer morphology, lightning research, microgravity effects on plants, and a student experiment on ice crystal growth in space. The mission made 79 orbits of the Earth, traveling 1.8 million miles in 119 hours and 41 minutes before landing at Edwards Air Force Base.
Shannon Lucid was next on STS-43 Atlantis (August 2 to 11, 1991), helping to deploy the fifth Tracking and Data Relay Satellite and conduct 32 physical, material, and life science experiments. The mission ended after 142 orbits of the Earth and 3.7 million miles in 213 hours and 21 minutes with a landing at Kennedy Space Center.
STS-58 Columbia (October 18 to November 1, 1993) was Lucid’s fourth spaceflight. At that time, this was the longest shuttle mission ever flown and was viewed as the most successful and efficient Spacelab flight. The crew performed neurovestibular, cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, metabolic, and musculoskeletal medical experiments on themselves and 48 rats, expanding knowledge of human and animal physiology, both on earth and in space flight. In addition, they performed sixteen engineering tests and twenty Extended Duration Orbiter Medical Project experiments. The mission made 225 orbits of the Earth, traveling 5.8 million miles in 336 hours and 13 minutes before landing at Edwards Air Force Base.
Dr. Lucid set the United States single mission space flight endurance record for a woman (at that time) with her next mission as part of the Mir-21 crew of Russian Space Station Mir (As of 2018, the current record holder is Peggy Whitson with 289 days, 5 hrs, 1 min). After a year of training in Star City, Russia, she lifted off at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, on March 22, 1996, aboard STS-76 Atlantis. Following docking with the space station, she transferred to the Mir. Assigned as a Board Engineer 2, she performed numerous life science and physical science experiments during the course of her stay (she shared Mir with two different crews of Russian cosmonauts). Dr. Lucid traveled 75.2 million miles in her 188 days aboard the Mir before returning to KSC aboard STS-79 Atlantis on September 26, 1996. With this, her fifth mission, Shannon Lucid logged more than 223 days in space.
In December 1996, she became the first woman to receive the Congressional Space Medal of Honor, for her record-breaking service aboard the Mir. Dr. Lucid was also given the Order of Friendship Medal by Russian President Boris Yeltsin for that mission. This is one of the highest Russian civilian awards and the most distinguished that can be presented to a non-Russian. From February 2002, until September 2003, Dr. Lucid served as NASA’s Chief Scientist stationed at NASA Headquarters, in Washington D.C., with responsibility for developing and communicating the agency’s science and research objectives to the outside world. She then returned to her duties at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, including acting as CapCom for STS-114 Discovery in July and August of 2005.
Footnote: Editorial assistance provided by Mr. Mark Powell
Last updated: 09 January 2019