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Meet Astronaut Joan Higginbotham

Jul 24, 2017 - Jul 28, 2017 Kennedy Space Center

NASA selects astronauts from a diverse pool of applicants with a wide variety of backgrounds from scientists to pilots. From the thousands of applications received, only a few are chosen to be a member of the elite NASA Astronaut Corps. Each day at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, visitors get the rare opportunity to meet veteran NASA astronauts.

Included with daily admission, the daily Astronaut Encounter briefings allow time for discussion, so bring your questions and your camera. Visitors also have the opportunity to get an astronaut’s autograph at The Space Shop at the Visitor Complex at various times during the day. See the Daily Schedule for times when you arrive.

With additional purchase, visitors can enjoy a n exclusive group presentation with a veteran astronaut that includes a question and answer session during Lunch With An Astronaut offered at noon daily.

Astronaut Bio

During her nine-year tenure as an engineer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Joan Higginbotham actively participated in 53 space shuttle launches. But when she returned to Kennedy Space Center for the launch of STS-116 Discovery, she participated on a whole new level: as an astronaut on her first shuttle mission.

Two weeks after graduation from Southern Illinois University in 1987, Higginbotham arrived in Florida and began her career at the space center as a payload electrical engineer. Over the ensuing years, she held a number of positions in the Space Shuttle Program, including launch control during the shuttle countdown and takeoff.

In those first years at Kennedy Space Center, Higginbotham earned an advanced degree in engineering management from nearby Florida Institute of Technology. After that, at the urging of one of her bosses, she applied to join the astronaut corps in 1994. When she didn’t make the cut on her first try, Higginbotham returned to Florida Tech, this time earning a master’s degree in space systems while working full time at the space center. Her hard work was rewarded and she headed to Houston as part of the 1996 astronaut class.

Higginbotham’s assignments have spanned various aspects of the Space Shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) Programs. After originally training as part of the STS-117 Atlantis crew, she was assigned instead to the STS-116 Discovery mission in 2006 where her primary task was to operate the Space Station Remote Manipulator System (SSRMS). On this 12-day mission the seven-member crew continued construction of the ISS outpost by adding the P5 spacer truss segment during the first of four spacewalks.

Joan Higginbotham was assigned to the STS-126 Endeavour mission targeted for launch in September 2008. However, in November 2007, Joan Higginbotham retired from NASA in order to pursue a career in the private sector.

Astronaut Joan Higginbotham

Meet Astronaut Joan Higginbotham