In memoriam: Millie Hughes-Fulford

Millie Hughes-Fulford (PhD ’72), the first American woman to fly as a NASA payload specialist, passed away Feb. 4, 2021, in her San Francisco home following a seven-year battle with lymphoma. She was 75.

Hughes-Fulford was a TWU Distinguished Alumna (1985), a scientist and a veteran. After graduating with her doctorate from Texas Woman’s in 1972, Hughes-Fulford joined the faculty of Southwestern Medical School at UT Dallas as a postdoctoral fellow. In this capacity, her research focused on the regulation of cholesterol metabolism. From 1981 to 1995, she also served as a major in the U.S. Army Reserve Medical Corps.

Hughes-Fulford originally was selected by NASA in 1983 to train as a non-career astronaut for a scientific research-dedicated shuttle mission. The mission was delayed in 1986 due to the Challenger tragedy. A few years later on June 5, 1991, they lifted off in the Columbia space shuttle. Following her spaceflight, Hughes-Fulford returned to the VA Medical Center in San Francisco, where she served as director of the Hughes-Fulford Laboratory.

In July 2014, NASA awarded her work as a top discovery on the International Space Station, and in January 2015, her immunology experiment with the National Institutes of Health flew on a SpaceX mission to the space station.

The National Laboratory’s Center for the Advancement of Science in Space interviewed Hughes-Fulford in 2015.