Friday, February 25, 2011

Former astronaut times skydive with launch

Fred Leslie skydives as Discovery launches behind him. (Leslie)

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.


Anonymous said...

I would like to mention that the photograph
was taken by skydiving photographer Curt
Bartholomew. Kathy also jumped with me and
appears in some of the frames.
Fred Leslie

Charles Atkeison said...

Thank-you, Fred, it's great to hear from you again. Fifteen years since I last spoke with you at the launch pad.

copyright 1998 - 2010 Charles Atkeison, All rights reserved.