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ShirleyInterviewtranscript - Masters of Technology...

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1 Masters of Technology Interview with Donna Shirley Evan: So we spent the day together yesterday and we drove to your hometown of Wynnewood. Donna: Right. Evan: And the thing that really struck me was how far away Mars seems from Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Donna: Mars is a long way from anywhere on Earth. Evan: Particularly far from there. So just tell me how you first dreamed of Mars from that little town. Donna: Well, I started reading science fiction when I was 11 or 12. And most science fiction in those days was about Mars. The best, most adventurous stuff was about Mars ‘cause we didn’t know any better. And we thought at the time that the atmosphere of Mars would support life and there was probably life on Mars. So almost all the science fiction had either people able to run around on the surface with maybe just breathing masks on or something or actual plants and animals and things like that. So it was pretty exciting. It was a real frontier kind of vision. So I read a lot of science fiction like The Sands of Mars and The Martian Chronicles and some of Heinlein’s books and so on and really was into it. Just thought it was great. Evan: Now science fiction has always been predominantly been a boys’ area of literature. I can only imagine when you were young…Did you have a lot of girlfriends to say “Oh have you read Robert Heinlein or have you read Arthur C. Clark’s The Sands of Mars?” Donna: No, I was definitely weird. But I was weird I mean I was the only girl that made airplanes, model airplanes, and hung them from the ceiling and I was the only girl that took mechanical drawing instead of home ec. So I was generally recognized as weird. In fact, the boys didn’t read science fiction either in my town. So I was pretty weird all the way around. Evan: All right so you’re a weirdo. But you’re a weirdo slash tomboy. Donna: Yeah. Climbing trees and al that sort of stuff. Evan: But why hanging airplanes? What was it particularly about flying and then space travel that struck you?
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2 Donna: Well, I wanted to fly ever since I was a little kid, as long as I can remember. My mother said when I was 2 I’d stand out and stare at the clouds. And when I was 6 a girlfriend and I decided that we were going to be bush pilot nurse combination and fly into the outback and rescue people. And I was going to be the pilot. And I really…That’s all I wanted to be was be a pilot. Evan: Oh, she was the nurse. Donna: She was the nurse. Evan: But you were the pilot. Donna: I was the pilot, yeah. And then when I was 10 we went to my uncle’s graduation from medical school and on the program it said aeronautical engineering and I asked my mother what that was and she said “That’s people who build airplanes”. And I said “That’s what I want to do when I grow up”. And so that’s… I just always wanted to have something to do with flight. I think it was a lot of the freedom, the frontier, the “go where no person has gone before” kind of thing. It was really exciting.
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