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Panhandle Spirit: Holly Ridings, Amarillo's NASA pioneer

Holly Ridings, NASA's first female Chief Flight Director, inducted into the Tascosa HS Hall of Fame.(ABC7 Amarillo)

A NASA pioneer returned home to Amarillo Tuesday for her induction into the Tascosa High School Hall of Fame.

Holly Ridings, Rebel class of ’92, was recently named Chief Flight Director. She’s the first woman to earn that title, and is now supervising the next wave of space exploration.

Ridings said her love of science and space started early.

"I was probably a fairly focused student. I loved math and science and I already knew I wanted to do engineering, so I approached it knowing that high school needed to be done well," Ridings said.

She worked her way up through the ranks at NASA, helping build the space station, operating thermal systems during missions, promoted to flight director in 2005, then last September, earning a spot no woman had ever held--Chief Flight Director. Ridings said, as a working mother of a young son, she appreciates the significance of that promotion.

"Probably more than just being the first female chief, to again be a role model to a lot of people out there, families that have that have young kids. You can make it work. That's important to me," she said.

Her focus now is to develop the next generation of vehicles that go into space, and new missions to the moon and beyond.

"You can feel that energy, and going forward, I think we're hopefully going to see that space ecosystem--commercial, government, international-- just grow and grow, which will benefit all of us," Ridings said.

And to think it all began by watching space shuttle launches in an Amarillo grade school classroom, and encouraged in the halls of Tascosa.

"There's a tremendous amount of value in the upbringing that I take from Amarillo, so to me, it's really special, and hopefully, I can give back a little bit, and be an example, or say something that’s meaningful to one of the seniors that’ll have some spark somewhere down the line, so I very much appreciate it."

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