<Tennessee Tech University alumnus Barry Wilmore will pilot NASA’s last slated space shuttle flight of 2009 when Atlantis launches on the STS-129 mission next month to the International Space Station.>
And the countdown has begun surrounding the launch, currently targeted for Nov. 16.
Atlantis and its crew will deliver two control moment gyroscopes, equipment and EXPRESS Logistics Carrier 1 and 2 to the International Space Station. The mission will feature three spacewalks. Atlantis also will return station crew member Nicole Stott to Earth.
Wilmore (electrical engineering, ‘85, ‘94) will make history as the pilot of the final space shuttle crew rotation flight.
After Wilmore earned his bachelor's degree, he applied to the U.S. Navy, but he failed the physical because of a knee injury. He used his remaining year of eligibility to play football and attend graduate school.
After several more physicals, the Navy gave him a shot. By 1987, he was in Corpus Christi, Texas, flying A-4s for the Navy. He flew 21 missions in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, then conducted initial flight tests for the T-45, and later spent a year as a Navy Test Pilot School instructor.
After five years of flying F-18s and two more deployments, Wilmore became a test pilot instructor at Edwards Air Force Base as part of a Navy/Air Force exchange.
Chosen as an astronaut candidate in 2000, he spent two years in training and evaluation before being assigned technical duties representing the astronaut office on all propulsion systems issues including the space shuttle main engines, solid rocket motor, and external tank. He also served on the astronaut support team that traveled to the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., in support of launch and landing operations.
As a special bonus for TTU, the shuttle crew has scheduled a Nov. 22 downlink to speak to students, faculty and staff live from the International Space Station. Wilmore and the other members of the STS-129 shuttle crew will speak with and answer questions asked by selected students from TTU and area K-12 schools.
As with any shuttle launch, delays may affect the date of liftoff. In the event the launch date is moved back, the downlink will be delayed as well. Notification will be made about any changes in the schedule.
On the day of the event, the live space station downlink and the student interaction with the astronauts will be broadcast live on WCTE-TV, the local PBS station (channel 10 on Charter cable, 22 on Dish/Direct/antenna or on the second digital channel of any state-wide public television station). Details of the broadcast will be available on wcte.org or tntech.edu/stem.
The mission page for STS-129 can be found at NASA’s web site (http://www.nasa.gov/).Go here to read about the Soaring Eagle Contest.