June 8, 2009

2 Purdue alumni to fly on shuttle Endeavour space-station mission

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Two Purdue University alumni - space shuttle commander Mark Polansky and mission specialist David Wolf - will team up with four other crew members for a July 11 NASA expedition to the international space station.

The shuttle Endeavour will deliver the final components of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's Kibo laboratory and ferry a new crew member to the station.

The scheduled flight follows shuttle Atlantis' mission in May, during which Purdue alumnus Andrew Feustel made three spacewalks to upgrade and repair the Hubble Space Telescope.

Purdue President France A. Córdova, a former NASA chief scientist, said the critical roles played by Polansky, Wolf and Feustel highlight the university's contributions to the U.S. space program.

"The space shuttle program has made possible an array of research and achievement in fields ranging from astronomy to medicine," Córdova said. "A Purdue education has benefited many NASA astronauts, scientists and engineers."

To date 22 Purdue alumni have been chosen for space flight, including Neil Armstrong, the first to walk on the moon, and Eugene Cernan, the most recent person to do so. NASA celebrates the 40th anniversary of Armstrong's Apollo 11 moon landing in July. Purdue alumni have flown on 42 space shuttle missions and approximately 37 percent of all human U.S. space flights, including missions from Project Mercury (Virgil "Gus" Grissom), the Gemini Program (Armstrong, Cernan and Grissom) and the Apollo Program (Armstrong and Cernan). The upcoming mission marks the seventh time in space shuttle history with two Purdue alumni onboard.

Mark Polansky
Download photo

Polansky first flew as a shuttle pilot in 2001 and commanded a shuttle mission in 2006. He received bachelor's and master's degrees in aeronautics and astronautics from Purdue, both in 1978. The New Jersey native considers Edison his hometown.

Wolf, a medical doctor, has flown on three previous shuttle missions, including an expedition to the Russian space station Mir in September 1997. He replaced Mir astronaut Michael Foale and spent 128 days on the space station. Two of the six Americans who have flown on Mir, John Blaha and Wolf, are Purdue grads.

David Wolf
Download photo

An Indianapolis native, Wolf received a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Purdue in 1978 and a doctorate of medicine from Indiana University in 1982.

The alumni will carry memorabilia from their alma mater - a Purdue pennant and two ball caps - with them on the mission.

Other crew members on the 16-day mission are pilot Douglas G. Hurley and mission specialists Christopher J. Cassidy, Thomas H. Marshburn and Julie Payette. The mission will deliver Army Col. Timothy L. Kopra to the station as a flight engineer and science officer and return Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata to Earth. Hurley, Cassidy, Marshburn and Kopra will be making their first trips to space.

Astronauts also will install the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module Exposed Facility and Experiment Logistics Module Exposed Section. The facility will provide a type of "front porch" for experiments in the exposed environment and a robotic arm that will be attached to the Kibo Pressurized Module and used to position experiments outside the station. The mission will include five spacewalks.

The assembly of the International Space Station is being conducted in low-earth orbit by a consortium of governmental and intergovernmental space agencies.

More information about the mission is available at http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/

Writer: Emil Venere, (765) 494-4709, venere@purdue.edu

Sources: France A. Córdova, president@purdue.edu

Gayle Frere at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center, 281-483-5111, Gayle.Frere-1@nasa.gov

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu

Note to Journalists: Journalists may arrange interviews with astronauts by contacting Gayle Frere at NASA's Johnson Space Flight Center, 281-483-5111, Gayle.Frere-1@nasa.gov. NASA's Kyle Herring can connect reporters with an expert from the space shuttle program to discuss the complexities of the mission. Still images can be requested by contacting Mike Gentry, 281-483-8602, g.m.gentry@nasa.gov

To the News Service home page