Former Astronaut and Texas A&M Professor talks about her time in space

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COLLEGE STATION, Tex. (KBTX)- Ever since she was a young girl, Nancy Currie-Gregg, dreamed of flying.

"In 1978, they picked the first group of female astronauts, and as I got older I said to myself, wow, that wast in the nick of time that those doors were open, but nobody along the way told me you can't do that," said Currie-Gregg.

Currie-Gregg, a retired United States Army Colonel and Master Army Aviator, served for 24 years where she logged more than 4,000 flying hours in a variety of rotary-wing and fixed-wing aircraft.

"I started out as a helicopter pilot, and once I got my masters degree in engineering, I applied for the astronaut program," said Currie-Gregg.

Although she wasn't accepted the first time she applied, she didn't give up.

"So the very next time they had a selection in 1990 I applied again, I was then working at NASA as a Military Detailee and I was finally selected in 1990," said Currie-Gregg.

During her career as an astronaut, she served as a mission specialist on four Space Shuttle missions totaling 1,000 hours in space, and even got to fly with with Captain John Young.

"You're pretty early into your astronaut career and you're in a space shuttle simulator and you're still kind of pinching yourself saying I can't believe this is actually happening to me, and then you look in the next seat and there is Captain Young," said Currie-Gregg.

Currie-Gregg said out of her personal heroes, Captain John Young is on her list.

"I have a very short list, and it starts with Neil Armstrong, and number two is Captain John Young," said Currie-Gregg.

Currie-Gregg explained flying with Captain Young saying it was one of the best experiences of her life.

"It didn't feel real, I was star struck, and he was just incredible not only for his experience but also I think for his humbleness about his experience-- one of the best pilots that I've ever flown with," said Currie-Gregg.

During her time as an astronaut and working with NASA, Currie-Gregg was awarded multiple awards including the United States Government Presidential Rank Award (2015), NASA Exceptional Service Medal (1998, 2012), NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (2005), NASA Quality and Safety Achievement Recognition Award (2005), NASA Distinguished Service Medal (2003), and the Army Aviation Association of America Hall of Fame (2010).

Following the Columbia tragedy in 2003, she was selected to lead the Space Shuttle Program Safety and Mission Assurance Office assisting with NASA's Return to Flight efforts.

"That was something that we all kick started and that I was lucky enough to be a part of following the tragedy," said Currie-Gregg.

After working at NASA for an additional 15 years after her first flight, Currie-Gregg retired and decided to take her experiences with her and teach engineering students at Texas A&M.

"Students would stop by my office and ask me a few questions about the course and then they kind of linger around my office a little bit and then finally they would say can I ask you some questions about being an astronaut and what's it like flying in space," said Currie-Gregg.

Which she said is a questions she loves to answer and an experience that is hard to explain.

"You know, the first time I did get sent up in space and I saw the Earth underneath me, it was just breath-taking, I couldn't believe my eyes," said Currie-Gregg.

Sharing those experiences and teaching students is what she believes is the most rewarding of it all.

"That's really the joy of it, sharing my experiences and hopefully to inspire the future engineers and hopefully even the future astronauts for this country and hopefully out of Texas A&M University," said Currie-Gregg.

In the future, she hopes to develop a course at Texas A&M on aerospace human factors to explain the physiological and cognitive effects of spaceflight.