Sharon McDougle

Dec 7, 2023

Hidden No More

A Conversation with Space Suit Technician Sharon McDougle

New Books Network 2023

Who dresses the astronauts for flight? Why are the suits orange? And how are they cared for? Sharon Caples McDougle joins us to talk about her work as a modern day hidden figure, a space suit technician responsible for processing the orange launch and re-entry pressure suit assemblies worn by all NASA space shuttle astronauts. She explains how she became one of only two women CEE Suit Technicians, led the first and only all-female suit tech crew, and how she made history when she suited up Dr. Mae Jemison.

Our guest is: Sharon Caples McDougle, who began her aerospace career in the Air Force where she served proudly as an Aerospace Physiology Specialist at Beale Air Force Base, in California. She was the first female and first Black Crew Chief in CEE. As Crew Chief she had the honor of leading the first and only all-female suit tech crew. McDougle went on to become the first, and only female, and Black person, to become the Manager of the CEE Processing Department. She managed the team of more than twenty-five employees responsible for the equipment worn by the astronaut crews aboard the space shuttle. This team suited up the astronauts, tested the equipment, strapped the astronauts into the space shuttle before launch, and recovered the crew upon landing. McDougle is a United States Air Force (USAF) veteran, and the author of Suit Up for Launch with Shay.

Our host is: Dr. Christina Gessler, who is the host and producer of the Academic Life podcast. She holds a PhD in history, which she uses to explore what stories we tell and what happens to those we never tell.

Listeners may also be interested in:

  • Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly
  • The 100 Year Starship, by Mae Jemison and Dana Meachen Rau
  • Suit Up for Launch with Shay, by Sharon Caples McDougle

Welcome to Academic Life, the podcast for your academic journey—and beyond! Join us to learn from experts inside and outside the academy, and around the world. Missed any of the 175+ Academic Life episodes? You’ll find them all archived here.

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Christina Gessler

Dr. Christina Gessler holds a PhD in U.S. history.
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