Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Astronaut Tied Emotionally To Shuttles, KSC

It's hard to explain to people outside the gates of Kennedy Space Center the enormous amount of passion that shuttle managers, engineers and technicians have for the work they do -- the amount of dedication and loyalty they exhibit day in and day out, and just how much they love working in the human space flight business.

In many cases, these are neighbors who work for NASA contractors and who know that come April or July, they will be out of a job. Pink-slipped. On the streets looking for work in an economy that is not exactly booming when it comes to job creation.

Yet here they are at America's gateway to space, doing the exacting and hazardous work involved in receiving a spaceship that just made its 39th and final flight. Here they are making it safe enough to tow back to its processing hangar so it can be prepped for display in a museum, most likely the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum.

Well, the passion and pride was plenty evident for mission specialist Nicole Stott as she and the rest of Discovery's crew did a traditional post-landing walk-around beneath the spaceship on Wednesday. It was a special time for the former KSC engineer.

"For me, I feel like I have an emotional tie to Discovery, to the space shuttles and to KSC, especially," she said.

Stott is one of only three former KSC workers to ascend to the vaunted NASA Astronaut Corps and fly in space. She hired on at KSC in 1988 and worked in the shuttle processing world for a decade before moving on to Johnson Space Center in Houston.

She worked on Discovery. She was the Orbiter Project Engineer for Columbia, the Flow Director for Endeavour. She served as Convoy Commander -- the lead engineer with the contingent that receives orbiters on the runway and preps them for returns to their processing hangars.

"And walking around under the vehicle, I saw so many familiar faces, so much of that passion we talk about that people have working on these vehicles. That’s where it really was starting to hit home for me. And I think the more time I have to talk to more of those people, the more emotional or the more of an impact it is going to have," Stott said.

"I have to say again, though, just how great it is to see that these people with that passion have the pride that goes along with it, and are happy for every day they’ve had to work here, and wouldn't trade it for anything."

After all, they're making history.

ABOUT THE IMAGES: Click to enlarge the FLORIDA TODAY images taken by award-winning photographer Craig Bailey. They show the orbiter Discovery as it was being towed late this afternoon and early this evening from the runway to its processing hangar. Photo Credit: Craig Bailey/FLORIDA TODAY.

1 comment:

Dr. Dan Woodard said...

The Shuttle is working superbly. It's unfortunate that the Bush administration decided in 2004 to scrap it.