Ask a Veteran
These Museum staffers and volunteers once served their country in the armed forces. Now they serve in a different way.
- By Rebecca Maksel
- AirSpaceMag.com, November 10, 2011
Dane A. Penland
In 1976, when Cindy Norman was a sophomore in high school, the first women were being admitted to the Air Force Academy. Norman’s father showed her the article in the Air Force Times. “I could do that,” Norman thought. “When I was a senior in high school and people asked me what I wanted to do,” she says, “I’d say I wanted to work in computers and do something with space. And I had no idea how I was going to get there. But I thought once I got into the Air Force Academy I could figure it out.”
Norman figured it out by getting an undergraduate degree in computer science and a master’s in systems management. She then spent 16 of her 20 years in the Air Force working on space programs—all of which are still classified.
She credits her interest in space to her father, a 20-year Air Force veteran. “I remember when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon,” she says. “My dad was stationed in Japan, and my mom had it on television, but she had turned down the volume. They were also broadcasting on Armed Forces radio. So we were watching it on Japanese television and listening to it on American radio. I remember that day, even though I was just 8 years old. And that could have been the start of my interest.”
For a high school physics class Norman chose to photograph constellations, so she and her father took his Nikon out to the driveway and took a number of photographs. “That made a big impression on me as well,” she recalls.
In 2003, as she was retiring, Norman heard the new Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center was looking for docents. She was in the first class of docents, and has been volunteering ever since. Once each week, Norman leads schoolchildren—from preschoolers through high school—on highlight tours through the Museum. She always includes a couple of artifacts in the space hangar.
“I’m excited that Discovery is coming, because we can talk about an artifact that has gone into space,” she says. “But I’m kind of sad too that Enterprise is going, because I’ve had a lot of fun talking about it.”
Cindy Norman is photographed with the space shuttle Enterprise, which is on display in the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center.