NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former NASA astronaut Joan E. Higginbotham is the keynote speaker at the University of New Orleans' fall commencement where she will also receive an honorary degree.

The university, in a news release, said Higginbotham will participate in the Dec. 12, 3 p.m. ceremony at UNO's Lakefront Arena.

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports Higginbotham is one of only three black women to have traveled into space. She and six other astronauts were involved in construction work on the International Space Station during a 12-day mission aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006.

Higginbotham's career began in 1987 as a payload electrical engineer at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. She ultimately became lead orbiter project engineer for the Space Shuttle Columbia, participating in 53 space shuttle launches before retiring in 2007.

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Information from: The Times-Picayune, http://www.nola.com