Tennessee native returns to orbit aboard historic shuttle mission

ennessee's own Roger Crouch will blast off for his second journey into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia next Tuesday.

Crouch, a graduate of Tennessee Technological University and a native of Jamestown, will join the rest of a seven-person crew on a historic mission July 1 -- a reflight of an earlier mission this year. Columbia saw an abbreviated mission in April due to indications of a faulty fuel cell and returned to earth only four days into the 16-day scheduled flight.

The July launch will mark the first time in Space Shuttle history that the same crew and payload have flown a second time.

The mission will be a reflight of NASA's Microgravity Science Laboratory-1, dedicated to 33 experiments in combustion science, protein crystals and study of the properties of metals and alloys important to many industrial processes. Crouch will serve again as payload specialist, responsible for the success of many of those experiments.

In addition to Crouch, two other Tennessee Tech alumni will again be playing major roles -- from earth -- in the milestone mission. Teresa Vanhooser, an industrial engineering graduate, will again serve as mission manager, and Mike Robinson, a physics graduate, will repeat his role as mission scientist.

Crouch will again be carrying aloft with him some mementos from his alma mater -- a Tennessee Tech pennant and a compact disc containing the names of all Tennessee Tech students, alumni, faculty, staff and supporters. The CD is one way the entire Tennessee Tech family can participate in the mission, says Lee Wray, Alumni Relations director for the university.

Another way is with a campus celebration on launch day. Tennessee Tech will host its second Countdown Celebration for the campus and the community to watch the launch live. Along with free TANG and popcorn, participants can also watch NASA videos of Crouch before, during and after the last mission. The highlight of the event will be watching the launch live via a large-screen monitor.

The Countdown Celebration II will begin at 1 p.m. in the University Center OVC Room, and the public is invited to attend. The launch is scheduled for 1:37 p.m. Central Time.
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