Cady Coleman’s first journey to space came as a mission specialist in 1995 when the space shuttle Columbia carried the US Microgravity Laboratory into space for its second mission on STS-73, a precursor mission to the space station.
She returned to space for STS-93 in 1999, also on Columbia, as the lead mission specialist for the deployment of the Chandra X-ray Observatory, which is used to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the universe.
In December 2010, Coleman launched into space for a third time onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, for a six-month stay on board the space station, where she served as the lead science officer, lead robotics officer, and flight engineer.
A flutist, Coleman took several flutes with her to the International Space Station, including a pennywhistle from Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains, an old Irish flute from Matt Molloy of the Chieftains, and a flute from Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull.
On February 15, 2011, Coleman played one of the flutes live from orbit on National Public Radio. On April 12, 2011, she played live through a video link for the audience of Jethro Tull’s show in Russia in honor of the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s flight. She played the duet from orbit while Anderson played on the ground.
Coleman is also part of Bandella, a folk band that includes fellow NASA astronaut Steven Robinson, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, and Micki Pettit (astronaut Don Pettit’s wife).
Coleman advised Sandra Bullock on her role as a female astronaut and scientist in the film Gravity.