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Space hero: Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar’s story unveiled in fun, free Legacy Project


September 10, 2009

Space hero: Astronaut Bonnie Dunbar’s story unveiled in fun, free Legacy Project

OLYMPIA -- Space pioneer Bonnie Dunbar, Washington’s first female astronaut and now head of the acclaimed Museum of Flight, is the latest Washingtonian-of-distinction to have her life story told by The Legacy Project, the oral history program established in 2008 by the Office of the Secretary of State.

Dunbar, whose extraordinary story began on a little cattle ranch near Sunnyside in Central Washington, is one of just 51 women who have blasted into space. Her story, including a biography and an oral history based on sit-down interviews, plus photos and other materials, have just been posted at the Legacy Project site . It is free, and makes excellent curriculum material for teachers and students.

The emphasis on space exploration and the advancement of women in science and technology comes as America celebrates the 40thanniversary of the Moon landing.

A rollout ceremony was scheduled for 2 p.m. on Tuesday at the Museum of Flight in Seattle, where Dr. Dunbar is president and CEO. Secretary of State Sam Reed is keynoting the program and presenting a tribute to Dunbar from her boss at Johnson Space Center who chose her for the astronaut corps. First Gentleman Mike Gregoire is attending and bringing greetings from Governor Gregoire. Trova Heffernan, director of The Legacy Project and author of the Dunbar material, will speak, as will Kevin Callaghan, board chairman of the Museum of Flight, and Dunbar herself. The ceremony will be televised by TVW and available on streaming video .

The Legacy Project e-publishes oral histories and biographies of Washingtonians who have been instrumental in shaping our history. The materials are published online and are free for easy click-on reading or downloading.

In the past nine months, The Legacy Project has offered up profiles of Charles Z. Smith, the first ethnic minority on the State Supreme Court; pioneering female journalist Adele Ferguson; rocker-turned-civic activist Krist Novoselic; former Chief Justice Robert F. Utter; and trailblazing federal judge Carolyn Dimmick, who was the first woman on the State Supreme Court. Civil rights pioneer Lillian Walker was profiled in August.

Soon to be published is the oral history and biography former first lady Nancy Bell Evans. An oral history with former Governor Booth Gardner is in preparation, and a biography of the late Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn also is in the works.

“It is a real treat for Washingtonians and people around the globe to learn more about the Bonnie Dunbar story,” Reed said. “She literally saw that the sky was the limit, and through an excellent work-ethic, a top-notch education and family support, she excelled in a male-dominated field and flew five missions in space. As an astronaut and now as director of the amazing Museum of Flight, she provides a stellar role model for young people everywhere.

“Her story reminds us that there are so many examples of outstanding Washington people in all walks of life that we want to celebrate, and to preserve for future generations. The clock is ticking if we don’t want to lose the chance to preserve these important stories. The Legacy Project, which is part of the planned state Heritage Center on the Capitol Campus, is hard at work, on a shoestring budget, to preserve this part of our history and our heritage.”


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