By Sharon Watkins Lang, USASMDC/ARSTRAT Historical OfficeMarch 13, 2015
On March 12, 2002, the 11-day mission of STS-109 (Space Shuttle Columbia) came to an end with an early morning landing at Kennedy Space center, Fla. The shuttle completed 165 earth orbits and covered more than 3.9 million miles in 262 hours in space. Included among the seven member crew was then Lt. Col. Nancy J. Currie.
During this, her fourth and final shuttle flight, Currie served as a flight engineer -- Mission Specialist 2. As the flight engineer or "quarterback" for the mission, Currie described her responsibilities as "to recognize any malfunctions, to diagnose them, to send this off in an appropriate corrective action, and also keep track of where we are on the … nominal or normal steps."
Once in orbit, Currie's primary responsibility was to operate the shuttle's remote manipulator system a 50-foot robotic arm. This mission and skillset was key during this mission as the arm was operational during every day of this flight except for launch and return.
On this fourth flight to service the Hubble Space Telescope, Currie's duties were to retrieve and redeploy the telescope following the completion of various upgrades and repairs. During the flight, both solar arrays and the primarily power control unit were replaced, while an Advanced Camera for Surveys, which will study weather patterns, and a scientific instrument cooling system were installed.
Currie also operated the arm in support of five separate spacewalks maneuvering fellow astronauts to various work positions.
"I think pilots make good arm operators, because you're used to manipulating an aircraft and … always knowing where you are," Currie said in an interview after the flight. "I think what makes a good arm operator to support EVA guys (extra-vehicular activity, or spacewalking) is for the arm operator to know the EVA as well as the EVA guys do.
"I firmly believe that the best support you can give is to know exactly what bolt they need to go to, exactly what orientation they have to be in."
Her skills were recognized by fellow crewmember Dr. Rick Linnehan.
"[Nancy's] one of the best arm operators I've ever known," he said.
A graduate of Ohio State University, the University of Southern California and the University of Houston, Currie earned a bachelor's degree in biological sciences, a master's in safety and a doctorate in industrial engineering.
Currie was commissioned in the Army in July 1981 and attended Air Defense Officer Basic Course and the U.S. Army Aviation School. She is a master Army aviator and has logged more than 4,000 hours in rotary and fixed wing aircraft during her Army career.
Currie was assigned to NASA in 1987 and selected to be an astronaut three years later. During her four space shuttle flights, Currie accrued 1,000 hours in space.
Currie retired from the Army in May 2005. She continues to serve on the staff of the Johnson Space Center and is currently a principal engineer at the NASA Engineering and Safety Center.