Lt. Col. Katie Gaetke first decided she wanted to be an astronaut in middle school, at space camp. “If you want to be an astronaut, you’ve got to be a pilot, and if you want to be a pilot, you’ve got to be in the Air Force,” the Manhattan, Kansas, native told herself at the time. After completing ROTC at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she majored in mechanical engineering—“I was one of the cool kids,” she says—Gaetke did ...

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