University of Missouri
College of Arts & Science

Two Former Astronauts Make MU Their Home

Linda Godwin and Steven Nagel

When classes begin this fall, two former NASA astronauts will be on the payroll. Linda Godwin, MS ’76, PhD, ’80, and her husband, Steven Nagel, will join the MU family, and they are excited about being back in the Midwest.

“I’ve liked Columbia since I spent six years here as a graduate student,” says Godwin. “Being at MU is a great opportunity for us, and I am excited to be a part of this prestigious academic community.”

Godwin returns to MU as a professor in the Department of Physics this fall, and she will teach introduction to astronomy and will also be involved with doing outreach in the Columbia community, around the state, and nationally. In her first semester, she will work on developing something new for the department and the astrophysics program that is related to space and NASA.

“I hope to be able to add my efforts to those of others here at MU to interest students in math and science,” says Godwin. “I hope to use my experiences at NASA in that effort and educate students about opportunities for their futures.”

In graduate school, Godwin taught undergraduate physics labs and was the recipient of several research assistantships. She conducted research on low-temperature solid-state physics, and the results of her research have been published in several journals.

She joined NASA in 1980 and was elected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in 1985 — she became an astronaut in 1986. Her technical assignments have included working with flight software verification in the shuttle avionics integration laboratory, coordinating mission development activities related to the crew interface for shuttle payloads, serving as deputy chief of the Astronaut Office, and support of future exploration activities. A veteran of four space flights, she has logged over 38 days in space, was part of the crew that deployed the Gamma Ray Observatory in 1991, and has participated in two spacewalks. A comprehensive account of her accomplishments as a NASA astronaut can be found at

Godwin retired from NASA in August in 2010.

“It is a great day and moment of pride for our department to welcome one of our eminent alumni back to the department as a faculty colleague,” says Peter Pfeifer, chair of the physics department.

Originally from Illinois, Nagel’s education is in aerospace and mechanical engineering. He was an F-100 pilot with the United States Air Force before assuming instructor pilot and flight examiner duties in 1972. He then attended the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base in California. Nagel became a NASA astronaut in 1979 and completed four flights with a total of 723 logged hours in space. He retired from NASA in May 2011.

This fall, Nagel will join the College of Engineering staff and serve as a guest lecturer. He will teach a class in the spring semester.

“It is great to be in the Midwest again, and I look forward to working with the students,” says Nagel.

By Laura Lindsey, College of Arts and Science
August 22, 2011