Some of the shuttle crew

My cel phone’s beeping at me with the first of what will be many updates about the shuttle launch at 6:36 eastern (3:36 Pacific) today. This update: Shuttle is fueled. This is STS-118, aboard Endeavour.

The launch I went to in 2002 was also Endeavour. (Endeavour flew in June 2002, November 2002, and then underwent major refurbishing and upgrades. This is the first flight since getting all kindsa new stuff.) As part of that trip, I went to a reception w/ lotsa astronauts. Three of whom are on this flight.

The flight commander, Scott Kelly:

Scott Kelly signing scott kelly and susan:

Scott Kelly has an identical twin brother, Mark, also an astronaut. (see fotos at reception link)

alvin drew signing: susan tracy caldwell:
Alvin Drew and “Flygirl” Tracy Caldwell

Susan and Alvin Drew Tracy Caldwell Signing

This is the mission that has a teacher on it, Barbara Morgan, who was the alternate to Christa McAuliffe, who died along with the rest of the Challenger crew. NASA does “Teacher in Space” differently; Morgan actually became a part of the astronaut corps.

STS-118 Crew page

I was reading the bio of Tracy Caldwell (hey, San Gabrielinos! She was born in Arcadia; went to Cal State Fullerton; OC register article), and found a couple of noteworthy items in her interview.

She got advice I wish I’d gotten in my teens. This is in answer to her question about how she got interested in becoming an astronaut.

I’d have to say that when I was 16 … it was, one more year until I was graduated high school and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to go to school, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do specifically. I went to my parents and said, “I’m going to be leaving pretty soon and I don’t know what I want to do.� And they said, “Well, what is it that you want to do later on in life? I mean just think of the things.� And I said, “Well, maybe a veterinarian or maybe a doctor or a lawyer or something like that.� And they said, “No, I don’t want to know what you want to be, I want to know what you want to do.� So I started thinking about all the things I’d done in that short, 16-year span of life.

My parents said, “Make a list of all these things that you like to do�. I looked at it and I’m like, I’ve no idea what I want to be. And they said, “Well, it’s OK. You just keep that list. You add to it, you take away from it and you think about those things and whatever you decide to become, make sure that they include those things that you like to do because you’re the one that gets up in the morning, puts on those shoes and goes to work and you better like what you’re doing.

How the “teacher in space” program showed her she had the “right stuff” to be a mission specialist.

I knew about astronauts, but before that moment I thought they were all just test pilots. Military test pilots. And I never thought of myself as an astronaut simply because I thought you had to be a test pilot in the military, with the “right stuff�. I didn’t know what the “right stuff� was and, and I wasn’t too interested in going into the military. But Christa McAuliffe … was a teacher. I thought, “Wow, I know plenty of teachers. In fact, teachers impact my life every day.�

And at that time in my life I had at least six teachers impacting my life every day. And my teachers were my coaches. My teachers were my advisors. I saw my teachers way more than I saw my parents. So I started thinking, wow, if a teacher can become an astronaut, I wonder if I could too.

So that motivated me to start looking into the astronaut program and learning about it. And I found out that astronauts came in two different flavors, mission specialists and pilots. Pilots were the military guys flying high-performance jets landing on carriers at night. Well, I don’t see myself doing that, but mission specialists are scientists and engineers and I really had an interest in science.

Caldwell is going to be leading the 3 (or 4) spacewalks from inside the shuttle, directing everything going on outside.