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NASA astronaut Bonnie Dunbar trained in Russia as Norman Thagard's backup. She visited Mir onboard shuttle missions STS-71 and STS-89.
In her Oral History, Dunbar talks about her personal background, and she relates an incident that may have motivated her toward spaceflight.
She says, "My parents homesteaded in 1948 [near the Columbia River, in Washington State], and my mother lived in a tent [for a time] while she was pregnant with me. My first house after I was born was two "sheep herder" cookhouses, moved together. We had no indoor plumbing. They hauled water. We had a small oil stove until I was about three or four. . ."
Dunbar says that there was "nothing around us." At night, there were "no lights to the north, absolutely no lights to the north. And at night the Milky Way was a big white band across the sky. . .
"That's how I saw Sputnik," Dunbar relates. "That was my first introduction to real spaceflight . . . watching it go over."
Bonnie Dunbar Oral History (PDF)
Lucid on Being an Astronaut
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Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty