Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper: the third Ukrainian woman in space to unfurl the Ukrainian flag in Earth orbit
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper became the third Ukrainian woman to travel in space, after Judith Resnick and Roberta Lynn Bondar, and the eighth woman to go into outer space. In total, she spent 22 (!) hours outside the ISS.
During her first flight, when Heidemarie was looking at the Earth's surface in her spare time, she managed to find Kyiv and take a picture of it. She was so delighted that she began to examine the "map" more closely - she really wanted to find Lviv, but - despite the fact that in orbit you can fly from one city to another in 5 minutes - she had too few landmarks to do so. Instead of Lviv, she saw the Black Sea, Crimea, and the Dnipro River.
The playlist that Heidemarie listened to in space contained many Ukrainian songs, and she used a song with lyrics by Taras Shevchenko, written by a Ukrainian-British band, as an alarm clock. In the astronaut's notebook that went with her in space, along with photos of her family, there was a Ukrainian flag and emblems of her school and Plast, where she was once a member.
After the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Stefanyshyn-Piper published an appeal in support of our country.
Ukrainian childhood in America
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper was born on February 7, 1963, in St. Paul, the capital of the U.S. state of Minnesota. Heidemarie's father, Mykhailo, is originally from the Ukrainian village of Yakymiv, 40 kilometers from Lviv. During World War II, he was sent to forced labor in Germany, where he met a German woman named Adelaide: the young people got married and moved to the United States.
Father Heidemarie was very homesick for his native Ukraine, so he raised his daughter to love her country: he taught her to speak her native language, she attended a Ukrainian church, and she knows the history, culture, customs, and traditions of her historical homeland. But most importantly, despite the fact that Heidemarie was born and lives in the United States, she has always considered herself Ukrainian.
To the sky - across the sea
As a teenager, she became a member of the Ukrainian scouting organization Plast, and the knowledge and skills she acquired there, such as the ability to read maps and navigate, later came in handy on her way to space, and Heidemarie has dreamed of becoming an astronaut since she was four years old. Her first ever airplane flight during a trip with her parents made an indelible impression on her - from then on, she thought only of the sky. Health problems stood in the way of her dream: Heidemarie was diagnosed with vision problems. She decided to take a different path: she won a U.S. Navy scholarship, which, after graduating from a female high school, allowed her to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She graduated in 1985 with a master's degree in mechanical engineering.
In the late 1980s, Heidemarie married engineer Glenn Piper, whose surname, contrary to the rules, she put in her documents second to her own so that it would always remind her and others of her Ukrainian heritage. At the same time, Haydemari completed her training at the Naval Divers and Rescue Training Center, became a rescue diver, and joined the U.S. Navy. During her service, she participated in the development of a plan to raise the SS-48 submarine and rescue the stranded tanker EXXON HOUSTON..
Atlantis and Endeavour
Despite the successful career she has built, Heidemarie has not forgotten her dream of going into space. When the opportunity arose in 1996 to be selected for the NASA astronaut team once again, she did not waste her chance. True, she had to pass many difficult tests and interviews, and then a month of training, but she overcame all the obstacles. This time, everything went well, and Stefanyshyn-Piper joined the mission as a specialist. The flight was scheduled for 2003, but was postponed due to the Columbia shuttle disaster.
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper went into space for the first time on the Atlantis shuttle three years later, in 2006, on a flight called STS-115, which lasted 11 days. The purpose of the operation was to install new solar panels on the ISS, and in the process, Heidemarie went into space twice, becoming the eighth woman in the history of astronautics to leave the space station.
Two years later, in 2008, Heidemarie went into Earth orbit as part of the STS-126 mission, this time on the shuttle Endeavour, which lasted 15 days. During this time, Stefanyshyn-Piper made three more spacewalks, during which she performed maintenance on the ISS. During one of them, a funny story happened: Heidemarie dropped a bag of instruments in orbit, which became an artificial Earth satellite and burned up in the dense layers of the atmosphere a year later. According to Heidemarie, the most beautiful thing about being in orbit was seeing the Earth from above, and the most important and difficult thing was not to make mistakes when the whole world was watching you, without exaggeration.
The sea again
In between her two spaceflights, Heidemarie didn't sit idle: as a commander, she participated in the NEEMO 12 underwater expedition and spent about two weeks aboard NASA's Aquarius underwater laboratory. The purpose of this mission was to simulate a spacewalk and practice the basics of astronaut interaction underwater.
In 2009, Stefanyshyn-Piper announced her decision to leave NASA. After resigning, she returned to the Navy, and in 2011 was appointed commander of the Carderock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. She held this position until her retirement on July 1, 2015. During her years of service, Ms. Heidemarie received a number of awards, including the U.S. Navy Commendation Medal, two IMF Commendation Medals, and two Navy Achievement Medals. For her space flight and outstanding achievements in the space industry, Stefanyshyn-Piper received two NASA medals.
Heidemarie has been to her historic homeland, Ukraine, several times, the first time during her time at NASA in 2007. Another visit took place in 2019, and each time the astronaut visited Yakymiv, where her father was born, and talked to relatives who live there - 16 of her cousins live in Yakymiv.