Discovery astronauts visit Stennis

Published 6:39 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TheSpace Shuttle Discovery astronauts visited Stennis Space Center to present tokens of appreciation to students and enforce the need for more students to develop math and science skills.

“We need people like you to get interested in math and science and to come work for NASA,” said Commander Steve Lindsey during the astronauts meeting with the students. “We’re going to be too old to fly to Mars, so we need you guys to do that for us.”

After the astronauts answered questions from the students they presented each school in attendance, including the Pearl River County robotics team CHAOS, with posters of appreciation for being involved either as Explorer Schools or involved as a Robotics team. Two representatives of Team CHAOS went up on stage to accept the special piece of art from the astronauts, which included Lindsey, Mission Specialist Piers Sellers, Mission Specialist Stephanie Wilson and Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak.

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The Pearl River County Robotics Team CHAOS members are looking forward to a new year of competition. They don’t have all the specifics of what they will do this year since the rules for this year’s competition have not been released, but they do know one thing, they will be working on ways to beef up the robot.

“If we can do it the way we want to there will be no turn radius,” said CHAOS team member Ian Ladner.

The local media also had a chance to ask some questions about the astronauts’ successful missione and what plans NASA has for the future.

During their 13-day mission, the astronauts conducted a few tests, installed parts on the International Space Station and restocked some of the station’s supplies. Nine of those mission days were spent on the space station, Lindsey said.

Numerous checks were conducted on the shuttle to ensure that no large sections of foam had struck the shuttle during launch. Checks were done during the launch with attached cameras and afterwards before docking with the space station, Lindsey said. Just before docking with the space station, the shuttle performed a flip in front of space station cameras for a good look at the underside of the shuttle, he said. All the tests came out fine.

Tests were performed to see if shuttle repairs could be conducted in space, Lindsey said.

Sellers spent about 21 and a half hours in space walks installing parts on the space station and performing mock shuttle repair tests, he said.

Before the shuttle is retired, NASA plans to finish the space station, get European and Japanese astronauts into the station and do some work on the Hubble telescope, Lindsey said.

Cooperation with other countries on the International Space Station is going well.

“It’s been a smashing success,” Sellers said.

To open up more launch windows, NASA has begun utilizing night launches, Wilson said.

By 2010, NASA plans to discontinue the shuttle program and replace it with a new space transportation program, Sellers said. However the new program is not slated for completion until 2012 or 2014, leaving up to a four-year gap in American space travel, Sellers said.

Space transport to the Space Station will not cease. NASA plans to utilize the Russian Soyuz for travel to and from the space station until the new craft is complete, he said. The Soyuz should be able to accommodate six people by then, Sellers said.