NASA Astronaut to speak at Three Stages

By From page B10 | February 15, 2013

Stephen-Robinson-NASAIn his first public lecture since leaving NASA, Dr. Steve Robinson will take the Three Stages audience backstage inside the nation’s space program on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m.

“I will be sharing pictures and stories from the Shuttle that I’ve never shared before,” said Robinson of his dynamic multimedia presentation,

In his tiny office at the University of California, Davis, Robinson held up two letters. One was a letter rejecting his application to come to UC Davis as an undergraduate. The other, dated nearly 40 years later, was an invitation from UC Davis for Robinson to join the engineering faculty as a tenured professor.

“A career in NASA is like this,” noted Robinson. “There is rejection, there is failure and, with some persistence, amazing things are accomplished.”

In between the receipt of those two letters, the Sacramento-born Robinson — a 36-year veteran of the space program as scientist, engineer, pilot and celebrated astronaut — has flown four space shuttle missions, logging 48 days and almost 20 million miles in space, served as special capsule communicator for 15 years, oversaw Senator John Glenn’s research during his famous shuttle mission, learned enough Russian to be certified as a cosmonaut and — perhaps most dramatically — in the “Return to Flight” mission following the loss of space shuttle Columbia, undertook an unprecedented and unplanned repair of the space shuttle Discovery’s heat shield, as the nation — indeed, the entire world — held its breath.

“The story of Steve Robinson is a story of adventure, courage, perseverance and incredibly hard work,” said Three Stages Executive Director Dave Pier. “His lecture at Three Stages will be the first ticketed speech since leaving NASA and taking up residence here in the capital region. We’re honored to invite him to Three Stages.”

Robinson started working for NASA in 1975 as a student co-op at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.

After working as a graphic artist, surveyor, musician and radio disc jockey, he joined NASA Ames in 1979 as a research scientist in the fields of fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, experimental instrumentation and computational scientific visualization. While at NASA Ames, Robinson earned master’s and doctorate degrees from Stanford University.

After 12 years of rejection from the NASA Astronaut program, Robinson was selected as an astronaut in December 1994.

He held a wide variety of technical assignments within the astronaut office, including testing space shuttle flight control software, developing onboard computer and flight crew equipment and helping to develop the International Space Station robot arm.

Robinson has flown on four space shuttle missions and has served as a backup crew member for the fourth crew of the International Space Station:

• Shuttle Mission STS-85 Discovery, Aug. 7 to 19, 1997, was a 12-day mission. Robinson’s responsibilities on STS-85 included flying both the shuttle robot arm and the experimental Japanese robot arm and serving as a contingency spacewalker.

• Shuttle Mission STS-95 Discovery, Oct. 29 to Nov. 7, 1998, was a nine-day science mission, during which the crew supported more than 80 payloads, including a study of the aging process with crew member John Glenn. As Payload Commander, Robinson was responsible for the accomplishment of all scientific objectives by the crew.

• Shuttle Mission STS-114 Discovery, July 26 to Aug. 9, 2005, was the “Return to Flight” mission; the first shuttle flight in the two and-a-half years after the loss of space shuttle Columbia. The objective of the mission was to resupply the International Space Station and evaluate new procedures for flight safety and shuttle inspection and repair techniques. Robinson served as flight engineer and also performed three spacewalks, totaling 20 hours and 5 minutes, including an unplanned and unprecedented repair of space shuttle Discovery’s heat shield.

• Shuttle Mission STS-130 Endeavour, Feb. 8 to 21, 2010, launched at night, carrying the International Space Station’s final permanent modules.

Robinson will give a Distinguished Speakers lecture entitled “This Side of Impossible — Achieving the Dream of Spaceflight” in Three Stages, 10 College Parkway in Folsom.

Tickets are $19 to $29; premium tickets are available for $39. Student tickets, with ID, cost $12. They may be purchased online at or from the Three Stages ticket office at 916-608-6888 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and two hours before show time.

Harris Center for the Arts

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