A doting uncle of Ivins in her hometown of Baltimore had a favorite way of describing her: “As big as a minute,” he liked to say. In the days that male astronauts in silver suits bestrode the plains of NASA, a petite suburban female was not seen as having much of a future in space. But Ivins, born in 1951, had flying in her blood, and by the time she found her way to NASA, she was already certified to pilot at least five different types of commercial aircraft. With an aerospace engineering degree from the University of Colorado, she was selected as part of the astronaut class of 1984 and went on to a career that dwarfed that of most of her male colleagues—flying five missions from 1990 to 2001, making a collective 886 orbits of the Earth, traveling 22.87 million miles and logging 54.9 days aloft. In 2007, she was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. Not half bad for big-as-a-minute.
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