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The professor’s room

An occasional series that gets within the inner sanctums of academia – because clever people have interesting rooms.

By Mark Cox

January 12, 2017

MSU Denver aviation professor, Tanya Gatlin, has an office full of memorabilia from her days as an astronaut trainer.

As a commercial pilot, former astronaut trainer and aviation professor, Tanya Gatlin rarely has her feet on the ground. We took a test flight around her fascinating office as she provided navigation.

1. “This is one of the astronaut crews I trained. That’s me smiling in the middle, and no wonder. It took at least a year to train each crew, but every moment was awesome. It was an unbelievable experience to see our nation’s space program firsthand and befriend the astronauts.”

2. “I’ve flown twice now in the Air Race Classic, a women-only plane race started in 1929 because the men wouldn’t allow the ladies to race with them (for years it was known as the Powder Puff Derby). In 2013, I took a student along and we dressed as Twenties dames. It was great fun.”

3. “That’s Eileen Collins, the first female shuttle commander. She has been a very good friend and mentor to me – and really pushed me to achieve some goals in life I otherwise might not have reached. For all her achievements, she’s super kind, humble and compassionate. Just an incredible woman.”

4. “These are four memorial patches that were made to mark the big three space tragedies: Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia. I have them mounted on my wall exactly as they appear in mission control – it’s my way to commemorate the sacrifice of our great astronauts.”

5. “As a favor, the Colorado astronaut Steve Swanson took a picture of me and my three kids [when he went] to the International Space Station. He then took a photo of my family snapshot from the iconic [space station] cupola window. So now my kids have officially been to space!”

6. “This picture was signed by all the people that I worked with in Houston – the astronauts, instructors and mission control people. It captures a big part of my life, when I made some really enduring friendships. I miss it like crazy, but still get back down there as often as I can.”

PS. Calling all faculty members…

Do you have an interesting office – and would you like to feature it in our new series? Just email Mark Cox.

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