Sunday, February 27, 2011

Astronaut Says Station Is No Motel 6

So we've always wanted to know what the astronauts really think of living and working aboard the International Space Station. Is it like living in a hotel? And if so, is it like a Motel 6 or the Ritz?

"Ritz, baby," Discovery mission specialist Nicole Stott told a reporter from a Tampa television station during a space-to-ground interview today.

Stott, a native of Clearwater and a married mother who spent three months aboard the outpost in 2009, is in the midst of her second spaceflight -- the 39th and final flight of Discovery and a mission to deliver a badly needed stowage unit to the station.

She is only the third former Kennedy Space Center worker to ascend to the NASA Astronaut Corps and actually fly in space.

Stott took an unusual path to her current post. She graduated from Clearwater High School in 1980, earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from Embry Riddle in 1987 and a master's degree in engineering management from University of Central Florida in 1992.

NASA had a hiring freeze on when she graduated from Embry Riddle, so she took a job working in West Palm Beach with rocket engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney. She joined NASA at Kennedy Space Center in 1988 and served in a variety of increasing responsible positions -- including Orbiter Project Engineer for Columbia and Flow Director for Endeavour.

Stott moved on to Johnson Space Center in 1998 and was selected to the Astronaut Corps in July 2000.

She said growing up in Florida, in relatively close proximity to KSC, played a key role in her eventual career path. But her biggest influence was her father, who had a "very passionate" love for flying.

Stott will direct the two spacewalks planned during Discovery's mission from inside the orbiter. She and the shuttle crew will depart the station on Saturday and land at KSC at 12:39 p.m. Monday, march 7.

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