First woman Shuttle pilot and African American space walker

Many milestones for Mission STS-63 Crew of an African American, British American, two women, and a Cosmonaut

One of my definitions of a geek is someone who introduces us to brave new worlds with visions of the future. What better fits that definition of a geek than an astronaut.

As I explored a collection of NASA images I came across the STS-63 Crew Portrait. What immediately caught my attention about the STS-63 Crew Portrait was the diversity of the crew. An African American, two women, and a Cosmonaut were among the six crew members. I was gathering information to do an article for Geek History on women astronauts. As I learned about the crew members and mission of STS-63, I discovered a mission of many milestones and amazing crew members.

Many milestones for Mission STS-63

During the flight, Mission Specialist Bernard Harris became the first African-American to walk in space and fellow Mission Specialist Michael Foale became the first British-born spacewalker. The mission had another first as Eileen Collins became the first woman to pilot a Space Shuttle.

Mission STS-63 aboard Space Shuttle Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center on February 3, 1995. The mission was also a symbol of international cooperation with a primary objective to perform a rendezvous and fly around the Russian space station Mir.

George Westinghouse used Tesla power to defeat Edison in Currents War

George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla defeat Edison in Currents WarThe War of Currents was a great science and technology feud in the late 1800s between the Edison Electric Light Company and Westinghouse Electric Company over what electric power transmission system should be used.  The Westinghouse Electric Company supported AC (alternating current) and the Edison Electric Light Company supported DC (direct current).

The internet loves to portray the battle as one between rival inventors Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla.  It makes for a good story of the hero, Tesla, defeating his rival, Edison. Both Edison and Tesla were well known at the time, and both a bit crazy.Thomas Edison was a well known inventor riding his success and media attention for inventing the phonograph. Edison leveraged his name and fame to start building DC power plants in New York City. Westinghouse, unlike his rival Edison, did not seek media attention, and was a very private person.

The battle for public opinion over which system should be used to power America turned into a nasty smear campaign by Edison. An inventor and electrical engineer named Harold Brown became the front man for a campaign to show the world the dangers of alternating current. Stories are told of how Brown paid local children to collect stray dogs off the street that he used for experiments showing the dangers of alternating current. Despite publicly denouncing capital punishment, Edison secretly financed the alternating current electric chair developed by Brown. Edison launched a media campaign telling the world AC was deadly, using the word "Westinghoused" to describe an execution by electrocution.

George Westinghouse a unique mix of inventor and industrialist

George Westinghouse a unique mix of inventor and industrialistGeorge Westinghouse is often listed as an industrialist or entrepreneur. Many times when people call someone an industrialist, rather than an inventor, they are implying the person was not an inventor themselves, but bought and sold other people's ideas. But George Westinghouse was very much an inventor, and a life long geek who loved to tinker with machinery.

George Westinghouse was the son of a New York agricultural machinery maker, the owner of the G. Westinghouse and Company Schenectady Agricultural Works. As a boy George was not a good student, it is said he was bored in the classroom. He loved mechanics and working in the machine shops of his father's factory. A foreman in his father's shop took an interest in George junior and gave him the tools and encouragement to build water wheels and steam engines in his fathers shop. Later in life Westinghouse said the best education he had was the ability to work in his father's shops.

At an early age Westinghouse worked on various inventions involving rotary steam engines and improving the railway system, at age of 19 Westinghouse was awarded his first patent for a rotary steam engine. Westinghouse moved to Pittsburgh at the age of 21 in search of the steel he needed for his inventions in rail transportation. At age 22 he was awarded a patent for one of his most important inventions, the railroad air brake. This device enabled trains to be stopped with fail-safe accuracy by the locomotive engineer for the first time and was eventually adopted on the majority of the world's railroads. The Westinghouse Air Brake Company was founded on September 28, 1869 by George Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The War of Currents

Many articles are written about the great fight between Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla over the distribution of electricity in America known as the War of Currents . What is really sad is all the internet hype on Nikola Tesla and the cries of how Tesla is forgotten. The often forgotten man who won the War of Currents against Thomas Edison was George Westinghouse.


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