Three veteran astronauts will be inducted into the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame this spring, joining the 99 others who hold the honor.
The new inductees include Bishop Kearney High School graduate Pam Melroy.
During her career with NASA, the former Rochester resident completed three missions devoted to the construction of the International Space Station. She is one of just two women to have commanded a space shuttle mission.
Melroy remembers watching the July 1969 lunar landing with her family and said her career was the fulfillment of a childhood dream inspired by the Apollo program.
"I think the key thing is that my parents always told me I could do anything that I wanted to," she recalled. "I think what they were thinking is, I could be a doctor or a lawyer or maybe get a Ph.D., but when I told them I wanted to be an astronaut, they completely supported that, and they always have."
The International Space Station is an orbiting space craft that functions as a science laboratory where crews of astronauts and cosmonauts spend time conducting experiments.
Melroy said it's a place where nations such as the U.S. and Russia can rise above their political differences.
"I do think that these types of scientific collaborations at least provide places that, when we have shared values, we can work together," she said. "It also means that there's always a place we can continue to talk to each other in case anything ever threatens to become really heated."
As for the future of space exploration, Melroy said she hopes there is one day evidence of life on Mars. She said such a discovery would help humankind better understand human biology and Earth.
Melroy is excited about the advent of commercial space exploration. She said it is critical in developing a technically literate workforce to support many sectors of the economy.
Melroy's induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame takes place on May 16 at the Kennedy Space Center. The other inductees are veteran astronauts Michael E. Lopez-Alegria and Scott Kelly.
Click on the LISTEN link above to hear Melroy talk about her career, the future of space exploration, and more.