Posted July 7, 2011 Atlanta, GA
Liz Klipp, Media Relations
After three decades and more than 130 missions, the NASA space shuttle program will come to a close on Friday with the final launch of Atlantis.
And as with the first shuttle launch, a Yellow Jacket will be a part of this historic flight. Georgia Institute of Technology alumna Sandra Magnus is one of four astronauts on STS-135 mission, a 12-day trip delivering 8,000 pounds of supplies and spare parts to the International Space Station.
Magnus, who earned her doctorate in Materials Science and Engineering from Georgia Tech in 1996, will serve as a mission specialist along with Commander Christopher Ferguson, Pilot Douglas Hurley and Mission Specialist Rex Walheim.
The Atlantis is scheduled to leave Kennedy Space Center, Fla., at 11:26 a.m. on Friday. Georgia Tech President G. P. “Bud” Peterson, Georgia Tech faculty, staff and students will be among the 1 million spectators at the launch.
“All of us here at Georgia Tech are enormously proud of the role and impact that our faculty, staff, students and alumni have had on the space shuttle program, from the first launch of Columbia in 1981 that was commanded by Georgia Tech alum John Young (Aerospace Engineering 1952) to this last mission of Atlantis with Sandra Magnus (Materials Sciences and Engineering 1996), as a member of the shuttle crew,” Peterson said.
Georgia Tech has a long history of contributing to NASA research and programs. In 1917, the U.S. Army created a school of military aeronautics at Georgia Tech – one of eight in the nation – and in 1930, the Guggenheim Foundation contributed a grant to establish it as one of the nation's first schools of aeronautics in the U.S.
Today, Georgia Tech is the largest school of aerospace engineering in the U.S., producing more bachelor’s and graduate degree holders than any other institution. Nearly one out of ten aerospace engineering Ph.D.s in the U.S. came from Georgia Tech. It is home to some of the nation's most accomplished faculty and laboratories for the study and advancement of rocket propulsion and space transportation. Nearly one-third of the School of Aerospace Engineering’s research is with NASA.
Beyond campus, hundreds of Georgia Tech graduates have worked as researchers, engineers and administrators for the space program over the years. More than 150 full-time engineers and co-ops were working at Johnson, Kennedy and Marshall Space Flight Centers as of last June. NASA Chief Technologist Robert D. Braun is the David and Andrew Lewis Professor in Space Technology in Georgia Tech’s Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering.
Fourteen Georgia Tech graduates have served as NASA astronauts during the life of the space shuttle program. The commander of the first space shuttle mission in April 1981 was Georgia Tech alumnus, John Young. As one the 12 men walking on the moon, Young is the only astronaut who was engaged in the Gemini, Apollo and shuttle programs.
Alumnus Dick Truly, Aerospace Engineering 1959, piloted the second mission of the space shuttle in November 1981 and commanded the eighth mission of the shuttle in August 1983. Truly later became the NASA administrator in the Reagan administration.
Astronaut Jan Davis, Applied Biology 1975, became the first female Georgia Tech graduate to orbit the Earth aboard Endeavour in September 1992. She made the trip a total of three times, leading the way for other Georgia Tech women alumnae such as Astronaut Susan Still Kilrain, Aerospace Engineering 1985, who piloted STS 83 and STS 94.
“The shuttle program has put a new human face on exploration and discovery,” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said at a NASA Space Shuttle Symposium at Georgia Tech last month. "Astronauts have become a diverse group in every way. The program has been crucial to provide flight opportunities for women and minorities."
Magnus carries on the strong tradition of Georgia Tech females in space. A two-time shuttle astronaut and space station crewmember, Magnus has traveled nearly 55 million miles. In 2002, she was a crewmember of Atlantis on an 11-day flight in which she operated the space station's robotic arm during three spacewalks required to outfit and activate a component to the station.
In 2008, Magnus was part of the crew of Endeavour and stayed aboard the International Space Station for nearly five months. During Endeavour's two-day trip to the outpost, Magnus was joined by fellow Georgia Tech graduate, pilot Eric Boe, Electrical Engineering 1997. Boe was also selected to pilot the final flight of Discovery in May.
At Georgia Tech, professors in the Daniel Guggenheim School of Aerospace Engineering are involved in a number of projects to further technologies beyond the space shuttle era – including inflatable aerodynamic decelerators for use on supersonic flight, trajectories for the next flagship missions to outerplanets and nano-satellites that may be used for remote sensing.
“There are many frontiers ahead of us,” Peterson said. “The task before us is to continue to educate and inspire the next generation of leaders, engineers and scientists to ensure that our nation's space program continues to lead the way in space exploration.”