Friday, February 25, 2011
The Huntsville Times broke the story moments ago of former astronaut Fred Leslie and his perfectly timed skydiving jump as space shuttle Discovery lifted-off from Cape Canaveral on Thursday.
While over Deland, Florida -- some sixty miles northeast of the Kennedy Space Center -- Leslie and his wife Kathy made a special jump at 4:45 pm EST, to coincide with the shuttle's launch trajectory.
However, a nearly three minute delay in Discovery's launch almost kept the jump from happening as the shuttle's launch window began to run out due to a faulty Air Force computer which controls the eastern test range.
Discovery launched with only three seconds left in her window.
As the couple soared over 13,000 feet above Deland, Leslie informed this reporter that the photographs were "taken by skydiving photographer Curt Bartholomew".
As The Times Elizabeth Hoekenga described it, "The jump had a special meaning to Fred, who is a former astronaut and works for NASA. He wanted a picture of himself wearing the flight suit he wore on a 1995 mission aboard Space Shuttle Columbia."
Leslie's single spaceflight of nearly sixteen days included astronaut Cady Coleman, who is currently living aboard the space station.
Both Leslie and his wife are veteran skydivers with nearly 8,000 jumps between them.
This reporter recalls visiting with Leslie, Coleman and the crew during their launch training in the autumn of 1995, and later at several crew walk outs related to the several mission scrubs.
Leslie works as a researcher at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville.