|CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – On April 12, 1985, Dr. Rhea Seddon sat on 4.5 million pounds of explosives. It was a moment she’d been preparing for most of her life, but that didn’t stop her from feeling a little anxious.
“It’s pretty scary those first few minutes,” she said during a 2015 AuthorSpeak event at the Linebaugh Library. “You feel this giant explosion way back behind you, and it feels like you’re going to blow up.”
On that clear, April morning, Seddon sat strapped inside the Space Shuttle Discovery as it rumbled and vibrated quickly into the sky. About eight minutes later, the Tennessee native was riding comfortably in the quiet vacuum of space.
At 7 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 20—the day before the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse—Seddon will deliver a free talk on her experience as one of NASA’s first female astronauts at the Austin Peay State University Dunn Center. An hour before the talk, at 6 p.m., Seddon will sign copies of her book, “Go for Orbit,” in the Dunn Center. The lecture and book signing are part of the University’s PeayClipse celebration, commemorating the historic solar eclipse.
Seddon grew up in Murfreesboro, and one night in 1957, she looked into the sky, hoping to see the flashing lights of Sputnik—the first artificial satellite, launched by the Soviet Union, to orbit the Earth.
“Sputnik, I think, began my thought processes about perhaps being able to do something else,” Seddon said during the Nashville Public Television special, Tennessee Explorers. “I think that caught my imagination.”
At the time, only male test pilots became astronauts, but a motivated Seddon pushed herself to excel, on the chance that women would one day be admitted into the program. She earned her medical degree and a pilot’s license, and then, in 1977, she learned NASA was looking for astronauts for the new space shuttle program. A year later, Seddon became one of NASA’s first six female astronauts.
She served as a Mission Specialist on flights in 1985 and 1991 and as Payload Commander in charge of all science activities on her final flight in 1993. On May 30, 2015, Seddon was inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame.
For information on her talk or additional APSU PeayClipse events, visit www.apsu.edu/eclipse.