Tuesday, October 06, 2009

From space, Stott eyes ride home, last shuttle flight

Former Kennedy Space Center engineer Nicole Stott, who was recently assigned to the last scheduled space shuttle mission, saw her ride home from the International Space Station inch closer this morning.

Atlantis will ferry Stott home following a launch targeted for Nov. 12. The orbiter today rolled from a KSC processing hangar into the Vehicle Assembly Building for attachment to an external tank, solid rocket boosters and mobile launcher platform.

Stott, who holds degrees from the University of Central Florida and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, launched to the station Aug. 28 on Discovery to begin her first spaceflight and a three-month tour as a station flight engineer.

"I certainly think very fondly of the activities that are going on at Kennedy Space Center, knowing that every step of progress they make brings me closer to my ride home," she told Florida Today during a space-to-ground news conference this morning.

Ending an amazing experience on the station - during which she has helped a Japanese cargo ship make its first rendezvous and helped build the COLBERT treadmill - will be bittersweet, she said.

"The experience up here is so amazing and so wonderful that you find it hard to leave, but you know your family is waiting for you at home, and that's where I want to be as well," she said. "So it's a very good thought for me to know that the vehicle is in the VAB right now."

Last month, Stott, 46, received a surprise e-mail from Chief Astronaut Steve Lindsey, inviting her to fly with him on the final shuttle mission, tentatively scheduled next fall.

"Huge surprise to get it on orbit. Very honored that I would be even be considered for that, of course," she said.

"The way I received that (news) was through an e-mail which, honestly, I thought was a joke at first, but since it was from my boss, I assumed there must be some truth to it. I'm really excited about it. I'm happy that I'll be able to share that with the people down at KSC again, and I look forward to flying again with Mike (Barratt) and some of the other people in my astronaut class on board that mission."

NASA astronaut Mike Barratt, who is set to is set to depart the station Saturday night on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft, also was assigned to the final flight, numbered STS-133. Read the Sept. 18 press release here.

Stott spent 10 years working at KSC between 1988 and 1998, including a stint as the manager responsible for preparing Endeavour for launch. She was selected as an astronaut in 2000.

She is the third former KSC employee-turned-astronaut to fly in space.

IMAGE NOTE: Above, Nicole Stott poses near a window in the Kibo laboratory of the International Space Station. Credit: NASA. Below, Stott joined eight other station residents today for a space-to-ground news conference. Credit: NASA TV.


Anonymous said...

I watched that press conference and wondered why no Russian news media bothered to ask questions of their 3 cosmonauts onboard?! Good for Nicole that she got a seat on the final shuttle mission.

Anonymous said...

Who says NASA TV shows everything that goes on on the space station?

I bet you $5 that the Russian press ask plenty of questions, and NASA TV naturally just doesn't show all the Russian language stuff.