Bonnie Dunbar, one of the first women in space, will marshal July 4 parade
It’s got a 3.2 liter engine, can do zero to 60 in less than six seconds and reaches speeds of 150 mph. But, for Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, the cherry-red Porsche she’ll ride through Kirkland on July 4 might seem a little slow.
Hurtling through space at speeds of 17,500 mph in the space shuttle will do that to a person’s perspective.
After a career that’s placed her on one of the fastest vehicles built by man, former astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar will lead the Kirkland Fourth of July Parade this year as its Grand Marshal. Dunbar has worked for the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) for nearly 30 years, traveling to space five times as a mission specialist.
“I always enjoyed working for the future, investing in the technology and research,” she said. “Weather tracking systems, satellite communications, various materials and innovations (from NASA) have found their way into our everyday life … It’s been tremendously rewarding.”
Dunbar, 59, who now works as the Director of the Boeing Museum of Flight, was asked to marshal the parade because of her NASA background. The parade’s theme this year, “SPACE — the final frontier,” honors the 50th anniversary of organization.
Growing up on a Yakima Valley cattle ranch near the small town of Outlook, she attended the University of Washington to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ceramic engineering. Dunbar said she wanted to build and fly spaceships from the time she was a little girl.
“It was a very exciting time, with Sputnik, Alan Shepherd and Yuri Gagarin. And I eventually did get to build a spaceship,” said Dunbar, who worked on the shuttle Columbia as an engineer.
Her NASA career began as a flight controller, but before long she was selected as a mission specialist astronaut. She went on to become one of the first women to serve NASA in space, eventually logging more than 50 days in orbit in five missions (her first was in 1985) aboard the shuttles Challenger, Atlantis, Columbia and Endeavour.
On July 4, Dunbar will be chauffeured around downtown Kirkland in a car that can claim its own little slice of fame. Art Griffin’s custom-built Porsche was one of three model 911s used in the 1991 feature film “Patriot Games.” Used for a crash stunt, the car is the only one to survive.
Griffin, a retired Air Force officer who settled in Kirkland, said he was looking for a way to take part in the festivities and honor NASA’s anniversary. When he heard the parade was looking for a new chariot for the Grand Marshal, he jumped at the chance.
“I’m proud (to do it). I really am,” he said. “It brought tears to my eyes. I remember that stuff, Mercury, the Apollo Program … I lived through that.”
For more information or to help with the event, call Celebrate Kirkland President Penny Sweet at (425) 765-5576 or visit www.celebratekirkland.org.