Retired NASA Astronaut | STEM Advocate
Cady Coleman, a former NASA astronaut and Air Force colonel, is a veteran of two space shuttle missions and a six-month expedition on the International Space Station (ISS). A chemist with a doctorate in polymer science and engineering, Coleman is a pioneer in the research of materials science, biotechnology, combustion science and fluid physics.
Coleman received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from MIT in 1983 and a doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts in 1991. Commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force, she was selected as an astronaut in 1992 and flew her first mission in 1995.
As a speaker, Coleman draws from her time at NASA and her missions on the ISS to discuss team building, leadership and innovation. She delivers a captivating account of life in space, as well as the importance of diversity, inclusion and collaboration. A consultant for space-related work, including micro-gravity research, Coleman is a vocal advocate for STEM and STEAM. She is passionate about sharing her experiences aboard the ISS, from which she delivered the introductory talk for TED 2011 and a commencement address for University of Massachusetts Amherst.
During her 180 days in space over the course of three missions, Coleman acted as the lead robotics and science officer aboard the ISS, performing the second-ever robotic capture of a supply ship from the station. In her spare time, she coached actress Sandra Bullock from the ISS in preparation for Bullock’s role as an astronaut in the movie “Gravity.”
On the ground at NASA, Coleman served in a variety of roles, including chief of robotics, lead for tile repair efforts after the Columbia accident and lead astronaut for the integration of supply ships from NASA’s commercial partners, SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Northrop Grumman. As a volunteer test subject for the centrifuge program at the Armstrong Aeromedical Lab, Coleman set several human endurance records while performing physiological and new equipment studies. Coleman’s work paved the way for the commercial spaceflight collaborations that are now commonplace. Before retiring from NASA, she led open-innovation and public-private partnership efforts for the office of the chief technologist at NASA headquarters.
A research affiliate at the MIT Media Lab and the global explorer in residence at Arizona State University, Coleman is an adviser to Earthrise Media, a company utilizing photographs of Earth from space to provide educational tools as well as context and perspective for environmental and social justice issues. She serves on the boards of several institutions, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Greenfield Community College, Dent the Future and Skycatch, an innovative artificial intelligence company that uses drones to provide decision-making data.