Naperville Native Trailblazing at NASA

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Sally Ride became the first American woman in space in 1983. That same year, Dawn Schaible graduated from Waubonsie Valley and started down a path to join NASA herself.

More and more women are entering STEM careers, but when Schaible started, she was definitely in a minority.

“I think it starts at the high school where folks are thinking about what they want to do,” said Schaible. “I was very lucky that I had teachers and my mom that encouraged me to go into engineering and consider that as a viable career path.”

The Station She Helped Build

Schaible now works as Director of Engineering at NASA’s Langley Research Center, but earlier in her career, she served as a test engineer on the first U.S.-built elements incorporated into the International Space Station.

“I first started work in the shuttle program and then in the space station program,” said Schaible. “And I just happened to be on a team of folks that were working on the very first U.S. launched element, in my role as a test engineer at the Kennedy Space Center.”

All-Female Space Walk

NASA had planned the first all-female space walk along the space station for March 29, with two female astronauts and a female flight director and flight controller.

An issue with one of the space suits forced one of the astronauts to be replaced by a male. The incident even caught the attention of Hillary Clinton, who tweeted out, “Make a new suit.”

Schaible said she hopes soon enough, diverse crews will become routine.

“I think for me personally, it really comes down to having the right people do the right job and I think to the extent that our cadre of astronauts are growing in diversity, it is just a matter of time when that will become common that we have all female or more diverse crews,” said Schaible.

Helping diversity take flight.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Krajewski reports.