Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Georgia Tech graduate to return to space station in July

Sandy Magnus will fly aboard the final space shuttle flight. (NASA)

Veteran space flier Sandy Magnus is no stranger to the city of Atlanta, nor is she to living in space, and is preparing this week for her flight aboard the final space shuttle mission in July.

The former aircraft engineer carried with her aspirations of becoming an astronaut, however she did not feel she was ready to apply just yet.

Magnus needed one more educational milestone before applying at NASA, and she looked to Atlanta to lead her into an astronaut career.

The Illinois native began attending the Georgia Institute of Technology located in downtown Atlanta in 1994. Two years later, she graduated with a Ph.D. from the School of Material Science and Engineering.

"I wandered off to Georgia Tech and did my Ph.D. in materials," Magnus said of her time in Atlanta. "At that point, I think my resume looks all right so I can apply to NASA and see what happens. And what happened was I got selected."

Weeks following her graduation, Magnus was accepted by NASA's Johnson Space Center near Houston for their astronaut program.

Dr. Magnus added, "I just didn’t feel ready to apply (at NASA) until I was nearing the completion of my Ph.D."

Today, she is a two-time shuttle astronaut and space station crew member and is just days away from her historic next spaceflight.

Magnus' first voyage upon the ocean of space was aboard space shuttle Atlantis in 2002, delivering a Starboard truss segment and fresh supplies for the crew aboard the International Space Station.

Her eleven day flight included her using the station's robotic arm during three days to assist fellow crew members spacewalking outside the complex.

Dr. Magnus' second spaceflight began with her launch from the Kennedy Space Center aboard Endeavour, to begin a nearly five month stay aboard the space station.

During Endeavour's two day trip to the outpost, she was joined by fellow Georgia Tech graduate, pilot Eric Boe.

The soccer enthusiast worked aboard the outpost by helping install new sleeping quarters, a new toilet and several new experiment and storage racks as the station was prepared to support crews of six.

Commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, mission specialists Rex Walheim and Dr. Magnus are due to lift-off aboard shuttle Atlantis on July 8 to begin the final flight of the space shuttle program.

The crew of four will spend eight days docked to the space station, as they deliver new hardware and supplies inside a cargo module tucked in the shuttle's payload bay.

Twelve days later Atlantis is due to land back at the Kennedy Space Center.

"I certainly feel honored to be part of the last crew," Magnus said. "And the thing I think that I feel the most honored about is it requires a special skill set to operate with a crew of four and I’m very flattered that it’s felt that I have that skill set that is needed to do that."

Magnus has traveled nearly 55,000,000 miles during her two spaceflights, logging 145 days in earth orbit.

Atlantis final orbit of the earth will be a busy time as the crew prepares to land. She hopes to reflect on the moment as the shuttle makes her victory lap around the planet.

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