AMHERST, Mass. - UMass alumna Catherine G. Coleman won’t be flying on the next shuttle mission, according to a news release from NASA. In February, the space agency said that she might be flying on April 3 to fill in for an astronaut who had suffered a broken ankle.
Coleman, who was training with the STS-83 Microgravity Science Laboratory Mission crew as a backup mission specialist, will return to her previous duties supporting crew habitability activities for the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
Coleman last flew in October 1995 as a mission scientist and has special training for any spacewalk contingencies. Her shuttle mission was a record-breaking 16-day flight to learn more about the effects of gravity on basic physical processes in space. Her experimental work was a centerpiece of that mission. The experiments covered a variety of scientific disciplines including fluid physics, materials science, biotechnology, and combustion science. The upcoming flight represents an extension of much of the work done on Coleman’s first mission and, according to NASA officials, will "concentrate on efforts to further understand the subtle and complex phenomena associated with the influence of gravity in many aspects of daily life."
Coleman is a frequent visitor to western Massachusetts and the laboratories of the UMass polymer science and engineering department. Her trips back to her graduate alma mater frequently include side visits to local public schools.
She began working on her doctorate in polymer science and engineering in 1983 and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Air Force that same year. Coleman earned her Ph.D. in 1991 and currently holds the rank of major.