A scientist who went to high school in Riverside County before attending Cal State Fullerton is scheduled to blast off aboard the space shuttle Endeavour Wednesday on her first flight into space.
Lead Mission Specialist Tracy Caldwell, who will celebrate her 38th birthday in space on Tuesday, will coordinate three space walks during the 11-day mission to deliver a new segment to the right side of the International Space Station’s backbone, known as the truss.
Endeavor is scheduled to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 3:36 p.m. Pacific Time. If the mission is scrubbed as a result of bad weather or technical difficulties, it could be rescheduled for Thursday or the weekend, according to NASA.
The mission is especially significant in Beaumont, where Caldwell graduated from Beaumont High School in 1987. The city will open its Civic Center gymnasium at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday so residents can watch a NASA television feed of pre-launch activities and the launch itself.
The Arcadia-born Caldwell received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1993 from Cal State Fullerton, where she was a sprinter and long jumper on its track degree. She received a doctorate in physical chemistry from UC Davis in 1997 and was a Dreyfus Environmental Postdoctoral Fellow at UC Irvine that year.
At Cal State Fullerton, Caldwell designed, constructed and implemented electronics and hardware associated with a laser-ionization, time-of-flight mass spectrometer for studying atmospherically relevant gas-phase chemistry.
She also worked for the Research and Instructional Safety Office as a lab assistant, performing environmental monitoring of laboratories using hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials.
Caldwell was working as a postdoctoral researcher UC Irvine’s AirUCI, the campus’ atmospheric chemistry research group, when she was chosen to be part of the astronaut corps in 1998.
Joining Caldwell aboard Endeavour will be a stuffed UC Irvine anteater mascot. When Caldwell asked AirUCI if it wanted to contribute something to the shuttle’s small box designated for items from its seven-member crew, it provided the 3-inch tall Peter the Anteater.
The anteater sports an AirUCI patch on his belly and a flag in his paw that says, “First EMSI in Space.” EMSI stands for Environmental Molecular Sciences Institute, the National Science Foundation-funded program that supports AirUCI.
(AP) – They’ve smiled for the camera and had a pre-flight snack. Now, it’s time for the seven Endeavour crew members to suit up, strap in and get set to blast off Wednesday.
NASA says all continues to go well as it approaches a scheduled liftoff at 6:36 p.m. Eastern Time. There are no technical problems with the refurbished orbiter, and the weather forecast remains 80 percent favorable for launch.
The widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee is praising astronaut-educator Barbara Morgan for her patience and perseverance in following her dream. June Scobee Rodgers says her husband and original teacher-in-space Christa McAuliffe would be proud of Morgan for following through on their mission.
Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in 1986, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)