St. Paul astronaut collapses during ceremony
Houston, Texas — (AP) - One of the space shuttle Atlantis astronauts collapsed twice Friday during a welcome-home ceremony at Ellington Field.
Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper, fifth of the six astronauts to speak at the ceremony, appeared to be confused before her legs buckled during remarks. NASA officials and crew members braced her and lowered her to the ground. She stood up again, and the crowd applauded.
"Boy, if that's not a little embarrassing," said Stefanyshyn-Piper, a native of St. Paul, Minn.
After speaking for another half-minute or so, she again appeared confused and gripped the podium. Crew members stepped to her side and lowered her to the floor. She was taken from the hangar by several NASA officials through a side door.
Officials said she was becoming reacclimatized and was fine.
The Atlantis crew returned Thursday morning after performing the first construction work on the international space station since the Columbia disaster 3½ years ago. They performed three grueling spacewalks to hook up a 17½-ton addition. The new piece included a giant set of electricity-producing solar panels.
Piper, 43, is a commander in the Navy and was a mission specialist and cosmic electrician aboard the shuttle. She carried out two of the spacewalks, joining an elite club of only six other U.S. women and a single Russian woman who have made spacewalks.
Piper graduated with a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in mechanical engineering from MIT. She received her commission from MIT's Navy ROTC program in 1985 and became a diving and salvage officer. She became an astronaut in 1996 and has waited a decade for her first trip to space.
She's married with one child.
Glenn Piper, her husband, said in a telephone interview from his home in Houston that his wife was fine. "She's doing 100 percent well," he said. "Basically, she's embarrassed."
Piper, who was the ceremony, said Stefanyshyn-Piper's collapse was caused by a combination of affects from her recent return, a relatively warm hangar and the excitement of the welcome home ceremony.
He said the flight surgeons who cared for her knew what was wrong and that they had seen it happen before.
"She obviously should have stayed seated the first time," he said.
(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)