Sharon Caples McDougle joined the NASA family working in the Space Shuttle Crew Escape Equipment (CEE) department. She began her career as a CEE Suit Technician and was responsible for processing the orange launch/entry suit assemblies worn by astronauts. McDougle was one of only two women technicians and the only African American technician when she began her career.
McDougle is regarded as a “modern day hidden figure.” Everyone knows Dr. Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to go to space – but many don’t know that an African American woman, with her own list of firsts, “suited her up”. McDougle was Jemison’s suit tech for her historic mission aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor.
McDougle was promoted to the position of Crew Chief making her the first woman and first African American CEE Crew Chief. In her new position she was responsible for leading a team of technicians to suit up astronaut crews. McDougle had the honor of leading the first and only all-woman suit tech crew.
She would go on to become the only woman and only African American promoted to the position of Manager of the CEE department. She led the team responsible for suiting up and strapping the astronauts into the space shuttle for launch and recovering the crew upon landing. She held this position until the Space Shuttle Program ended. She continued working to help close-out the program, ending an illustrious 22-year career with our nation’s space program.
During her career she was recognized with the Astronaut “Silver Snoopy” Award, Space Flight Awareness Honoree Award, USA Employee of the Month Teamwork Award, USA Employee of the Month Community Service Award, and the coveted Women of Color in Flight Award from Dr. Mae Jemison recognizing her as the first and only African American woman suit tech/crew chief in her field.
McDougle is also an Air Force veteran. She was an Aerospace Physiology Specialist responsible for training and suiting up and strapping in the SR-71 and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft pilots for high altitude operations. She also worked with the hypobaric and hyperbaric chambers. She joined the Air Force after graduating high school and separated in 1990 with an honorable discharge. She was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, Good Conduct Medal, and Airman of the Month.
McDougle has been featured in various publications, television and radio shows, and podcasts. She shares her inspirational story as keynote speaker as well as participating as a member on panels.
She is an avid volunteer in her community and works with several organizations. She serves as Vice President and Executive Administrator for Unveiled Aspirations – a women’s empowerment organization. Other volunteer activities include reading to children, cleaning community gardens, working in food pantries, feeding the homeless, and working in thrift stores, just to name a few.
McDougle is a mentor with the Patti Grace Smith Fellowship – the fellowship’s purpose is to give young, collegiate, Black students their first Aerospace internship. She is also a mentor for TWST4Girls (Together We Stand Tall 4 Girls) – TWST4Girls mission is to help youth (ages 11-17) discover and achieve their goals through 1:1 mentorship, life skills development, career exposure, and cultural experiences. She is also a “Big” with the Big Brothers Big Sisters youth mentoring program and is currently awaiting to be assigned a “Little”.
She recently became a published author, penning her first children’s book titled “Suit Up for Launch with Shay!” She also shares her story “Does God Love Me?” in the book Fearless Women Rock – Courageous Women Find Strength During the Storm Volume III.
McDougle has been recognized as a Mississippi Trailblazer at the Annual Mississippi Trailblazers Awards Ceremony and Black-Tie Gala where she received two awards:
The Calvin “Buck” Buchanan “FIRST” Award named for Mississippi’s first United States Attorney for the Northern District – honoring a Mississippian who holds the distinction of being the “first” in their profession
The Dr. Cindy Ayers “Legacy” Award honoring a Trailblazer whose singular work and contributions will leave a legacy long after their life has ended
She has been recognized as a true leader in her home state of Mississippi where she was honored in the inaugural class of Mississippi’s Top 25 Most Influential African Americans. McDougle also received the Living Legend Lifetime Achievement award from the Moss Point Visionary Circle. She was also recognized by Who’s Who of Mississippi Women at their inaugural gala with the Dr. Helen Barnes Award.
“That Girl” Natasha Lee honored McDougle at the “Make Your Mark Symposium”. McDougle received The Spirit of Detroit Award for exceptional achievement, outstanding leadership, and dedication to improving the quality of life and The Black Caucus Foundation of Michigan recognized her with the Leadership and Commitment of Excellence Award. She is also a That Girl Brand Ambassador.
McDougle was made an Honorary Citizen of Lake Charles, Louisiana by Mayor Nic Hunter; she was recognized by Allstate and Tom Joyner for her story of strength and community service; and she was chosen as a Remarkable Women of Houston finalist for CW39’s Houston Morning Dose News. She is also a proud member of the Red Hat Society.
Most recently, she was selected by the 2022 MLK Grande Parade committee as a Special Honoree for the MLK Grande Parade in Houston, Texas where she will be recognized for her contributions in community service and exemplifying the principles, values, and vision that best reflects the doctrines of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
McDougle is happily married to her husband Maronald, and they have two children, Dominique, and Corbin. She and her husband are natives of Moss Point, MS, and have been Houston, TX area residents for over 30 years.
Connect with McDougle via the web:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0g5rjNOPjeM6XRffCTusgw
The Wise Channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dOUYJ1RhgiI
Suit Up for Launch with Shay! book on Amazon: