Four astronauts speak at Stennis

Published 6:19 pm Thursday, May 8, 2008

Four of the eight astronauts that were on the Space Shuttle Endeavour during its March trip to the International Space Station visited Stennis Space Center on Wednesday.

Commander Dominic Gorie, Pilot Gregory Johnson, Mission Specialist Robert Behnken, and Mission Specialist Michael Foreman brought photo slides and a video of their experience to share with the Stennis staff.

Breathtaking photos of the earth, sunrises and sunsets, auroras, the space shuttle and the space station filled the screen behind the astronauts as they told of their experiences.

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“We orbited over the United States at night most of the time, but we saw so many other beautiful places,” Gorie said as he spoke about a mountain photo taken over Patagonia, Chile. “There was just a vast array of colors, from the white of the mountains to the blue of the oceans and lakes and the greens of the forests.”

“The launch lit up the whole Florida coast. There was a low overhead, so it turned the day into night. It was amazing,” Johnson said about a photo taken just after liftoff.

About the sunrises and sunsets the crew saw, Gorie said, “They’re breathtaking, but they only last about ten seconds each. You see one about every 45 minutes.”

The crew thanked the staff for their work testing the main engine on the shuttle.

“We have a gratitude for what the people of Stennis Space Center do, and what they have accomplished, especially with the challenges they have faced since Hurricane Katrina. They’re building world class hardware, and do a great job. We fly with confidence,” Gorie said. “From a main engine perspective, the trip was flawless.”

This was the fourth mission for Gorie, who also went to the Russian space station Mir when it was still in use. He said the visit to Mir was an experience in itself.

“Mir was a wonderful experience. There was junk packed everywhere. It was kind of like living in a mobile home for 13 years and not throwing anything out the whole time. There was clutter everywhere. It’s nice that Mir was replaced by the International Space Station,” Gorie said.

Gorie said called the time spent living and working on the shuttle a challenge, saying the group tried to eat their meals together and spend time together.

Gorie says in all of his missions, probably the tensest time is during the actual launch.

“It’s the most dynamic part. When you have that much machinery and power and that many RPM’s of turbo power, it’s very tense. It’s the highest risk part of the mission, but it’s also the most exciting,” Gorie said.