Dian's specialty is in the propellants field. The space shuttle orbiter itself uses two classes of propellants: cryogenic and hypergolic. The shuttle burns liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen in its main engines, and uses nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine in the engines it uses to maneuver while in orbit.
Dian was appointed to the Air Force Academy the year before the military academies admitted women for the first time, and by serving as a role model, was instrumental in her Congressman's efforts to get women accepted into the academies. Instead, she went to college in Houston, at a small school called Rice University (the worst football team in the country), on a Navy scholarship, and afterward spent four years in the navy, where she was one of the three women in the first Explosive Ordnance Disposal class to accept women. Learning to disarm bombs is not only academically challenging -- as you might expect! -- but also a lot of physical hard work. EOD physical training is almost as tough as SEAL team training (in fact, there are often SEALs training with an EOD class). Part of being a Navy EOD requires hard-hat diving, and the old "brass hat" Mark V dive suits weigh several hundred pounds.
Dian is not married and has no children, although she has taken in foster children. She lives with four cats: Stinker, Hellraiser, Kissy, and Ra King, is active in animal protection, and is also very interested in preserving endangered species and cleaning up the environment. When not behind a desk or in front of a computer, Dian can be found scuba diving, reading and writing science fiction, giving speeches as a Toastmaster, or being involved in politics to promote equal opportunities and rights.
Dian has a number of favorite quotes posted around her workspace, including this one from Leonardo da Vinci: "Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind." But she has only this to say about blond jokes: "I just correct the spelling and pass 'em on."
Thoughts, reflections, and more from Dian
Find out more about Dian and her work from her NASA Quest's Space Team Online profile.