NASA astronaut Rick “C. J.” Sturckow visited NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., July 13.
Sturckow was commander of shuttle mission STS-128 when it landed at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 11, 2009. What no one knew at the time was that the 54th shuttle landing at the base would also be the last.
During his most recent visit to Dryden, Sturckow gave a video-illustrated presentation of the 13-day mission to re-supply the International Space Station.
Sturckow said launch of the space shuttle was exhilarating for the crew.
“It’s exciting riding a rocket. There is a lot of shaking and vibration that tapers off for the first two minutes of the flight. Then there was a bright flash (as the solid rocket boosters separate) and we continued on the liquid rocket motors for six more minutes,” he said.
The rendezvous with the space station was another highlight, he said. The underbelly of the orbiter was checked to ensure the heat shield tiles were intact and then came the docking.
Docking lights flashed as the astronauts made their way up the tunnel from the shuttle’s docking point into the ISS.
The crew of Discovery included Sturckow, Kevin Ford, pilot, and Patrick Forrester, JosÃˆ Hernandez, Danny Olivas and Christer Fuglesang, mission specialists. Nicole Stoff flew to the station aboard the mission, replacing Timothy Kopra.
The mission payload included the Leonardo Multi-Purpose Logistics Module, an ammonia tank, an Atmospheric Revitalization System, The Lightweight Multi-Purpose Experiment Support Structure Carrier and Treadmill 2.
The video made it apparent that the mission included a high workload for the astronauts that included three spacewalks. The logistics carrier was removed from the shuttle payload bay, and mated to the station, using the Canadarm manipulator. Cargo was unloaded and secured in the station, then the reverse operation was done for returning material.
Sturckow was selected as an astronaut in 1994 while a Marine F/A-18 test pilot. He is currently deputy chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Sturckow retired from the Marine Coprs as a colonel while on board the space station during the STS-128 mission. He made a total of four trips to the space station.
The Walt Disney Company’s Buzz Lightyear toy astronaut figurine that had been taken to the station on Discovery’s STS-124 mission in May 2008 was also brought back to Earth on Discovery during STS-128. While on the station, the toy astronaut supported NASA’s education outreach with a series of online educational programs developed to capitalize on the Toy Story star’s appeal. The Lightyear toy is now enshrined in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
Fifteen of Discovery’s 39 missions landed at Edwards, the remainder at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The retired space shuttle is now enshrined at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Washington, D.C.