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Tracy Caldwell joins California State University’s eminent roster of graduates who rocket into space

(August 13, 2007) As the space shuttle Endeavour blasted into space last week with lead mission specialist and California State University, Fullerton graduate Tracy Caldwell on board, the university reflected on other CSU alums who have literally reached for the stars.

During the 11-day mission, Caldwell will help deliver cargo, spare parts, a new piece of the International Space Station’s (ISS) starboard-side truss, coordinate up to four space walks, and help wield the orbiter’s robotic arm.

“We are very proud of Dr. Caldwell and all the other ambitious CSU graduates who have gained the knowledge and have taken the inherent risks to help the U.S. space program flourish. They have been key players in continuing the exploration of space and demonstrating the human spirit,” said CSU Chancellor Charles B. Reed.

Caldwell received a bachelor in science degree in chemistry in 1993 from CSUF, where she constructed and implemented electronics and hardware associated with a laser-ionization, time-of-flight mass spectrometer for studying atmospherically relevant gas-phase chemistry. Also at CSUF, Caldwell worked for the Research and Instructional Safety Office as a lab assistant performing environmental monitoring of laboratories using hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials, as well as calibrating survey instruments and helping to process chemical and radioactive waste. She was also a sprinter and long jumper on the track team.

Caldwell is the latest of an elite group of astronauts to stem from CSU.

  • Air Force Colonel Rick Husband (1957-2003) earned a master of science degree in mechanical engineering at Fresno State in 1990. Husband served on a 10-day mission aboard Discovery to the ISS in 1999. Tragically, he perished with his crew members when Columbia broke up during re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere after a successful 16-day mission to the ISS in 2003.

  • Dr. Ellen Ochoa earned a bachelor of science degree in physics from San Diego State in 1980. Ochoa served on a nine-day mission aboard Discovery in 1993, was a payload commander aboard Atlantis in 1994, and flew again in Discovery in 1999, where she and her crew performed the first docking to the ISS. She was also part of the crew of a 2002 Atlantis flight.

  • Air Force Colonel Scott Jay "Doc" Horowitz (Ret.) earned a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Cal State Northridge in 1978.  He spent 16 days on Columbia in 1996, and was part of a Hubble Telescope maintenance mission aboard Discovery in 1997. Horowitz also flew on the third shuttle mission to the SSI aboard Atlantis in 2000, and again in Discovery in 2001.

  • Air Force Colonel Donald R. McMonagle (Ret.) earned a master of science degree in mechanical engineering from Fresno State in 1985. McMonagle flew as a mission specialist aboard Discovery in 1991. He served as a pilot aboard Endeavour in 1993, and commanded a crew of six aboard Atlantis on an 11-day mission in 1994.

  • Air Force Colonel Steven R. Nagel (Ret.) earned a master of science degree in mechanical engineering at Fresno State in 1978. Nagel flew as a mission specialist aboard Discovery in 1985, and helped pilot Challenger later that same year. On his third flight in 1991, Nagel commanded his crew on Atlantis to deploy a gamma ray observatory. Nagel also served as commander on Columbia during a 10-day flight in 1993.

  • Navy Captain Robert L. “Hoot” Gibson (Ret.) earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1969. Gibson was a pilot on Challenger in 1984 where he logged 191 hours in space. He served as commander of Columbia in 1986, Atlantis in 1988, and on NASA’s 50th space shuttle flight in 1992 aboard Endeavour. His final shuttle flight was aboard Atlantis in 1995.

  • Dr. Samuel T. Durrance earned a bachelor of science degree in 1972 and a master of science degree in physics in 1974 from Cal State Los Angeles. Durrance was a crew member on the historic Astro-1 and Astro-2 missions; one on Columbia in 1990, and the other on Endeavour in 1995.

  • Marine Colonel Rick Sturckow earned a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1984. In 1998 he was a member of the Endeavour crew who participated in the first ISS assembly mission. He was also part of a Discovery crew in 2001, and a Atlantis crew in June.

  • Air Force Colonel Dr. Yvonne Darlene Cagle earned a bachelor of arts degree in biochemistry from San Francisco State in 1981. Cagle served as the Air Force Medical Liaison Officer for an Atlantis mission. Cagle is qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist, and is still waiting for her first space mission assignment.

Continuing the Tradition

The CSU and other California universities have graduated these and numerous other successful science professionals over the decades. In 2004-05, CSU awarded 651 math, 1,930 biological sciences, and 516 physical sciences undergraduate degrees.

However, recent data shows that the state currently lacks enough teachers with the abilities to teach the next generation of science stars.

The report, Critical Path Analysis of California’s Science and Mathematics Teacher Preparation System, recently released by the California Council on Science and Technology, found that nearly 40 percent of California’s new high school science teachers and 35 percent of beginning science teachers lack the training necessary for a teaching credential in the fields they teach.

To better these numbers, the CSU has developed the Mathematics and Science Teacher Initiative.As a system, the CSU’s goal is to at least double the production of math and science teachers during the next five years. This means increasing from a baseline figure of approximately 750 new math and science teachers produced annually to a minimum of 1,500 new teachers produced in these fields.

The California State University is the largest system of senior higher education in the country, with 23 campuses, approximately 417,000 students and 46,000 faculty and staff. Since the system was created in 1961, it has awarded nearly 2.5 million degrees, about 86,000 annually. The CSU is renowned for the quality of its teaching and for the job-ready graduates it produces. Its mission is to provide high-quality, affordable education to meet the ever-changing needs of the people of California. With its commitment to excellence, diversity and innovation, the CSU is the university system that is working for California. See

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Last Updated: August 13, 2007

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