NASA will launch an Italian-built U.S. module for the International Space Station with a space shuttle crew that includes Army Col. Douglas H. Wheelock, a mission specialist who will be making his first spaceflight. Aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery, the STS-120 mission is projected to take the Node 2 connecting module to the station Oct. 23, when it will liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

In addition to delivering the connecting module, the crew will relocate a truss segment to allow for future space station expansion and increased power generation. Wheelock will conduct both space walks and robotic-arm operations as part of a 14-day mission to continue building the orbital outpost by adding a U.S. module called Harmony, or Node 2, that will serve as a port for installing more international laboratories. This is the 23rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station.

Wheelock, 46, a native of Windsor and Binghamton, N.Y., is a West Point graduate with a master's degree from Georgia Tech. He is a dual-rated Master Army Aviator and logged over 2,500 flight hours in 43 different rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. He also is an FAA-rated commercial pilot in single and multi-engine land craft, rotorcraft and gliders.

As a child in Binghamton, Wheelock remembered sitting in front of his family's black-and-white television watching the astronauts during the Apollo mission. Wanting some day to fly jets, his aspiration to become a test pilot inspired him to achieve a wilder dream: becoming an astronaut.

"I didn't think a little rural boy like myself could ever become an astronaut, but I did always want to fly," Wheelock said after his selection to become an astronaut. Meeting several pioneers of the aeronautical field, including former astronaut John Young, who walked on the moon, inspired Wheelock even further.

"There are many people who paid a big price for me to have this opportunity," Wheelock said. "I just want to give back what the Army has given me. I sincerely feel it is my obligation to pay back for all the mentoring I've received along the way."

Air Force Col. Pamela A. Melroy will command the STS-120 mission and Marine Corps Col. George D. Zamka will serve as pilot. The flight's other mission specialists will be Scott E. Parazynski, Stephanie D. Wilson and Paolo A. Nespoli, a European Space Agency astronaut from Italy. There are two additional mission specialists and flight engineers, Daniel M. Tani and Clayton C. Anderson.

Built in Italy for the United States, Harmony is a high-tech hallway and industrial hub. It is a 7-meter-by-4-meter passageway that will connect the U.S. segment of the station to the European Columbus Laboratory in December and to the Kibo Japanese Experiment Module in January or February 2008.

The U.S. Army has a proud tradition of contributing to our Nation's space program. In 1956, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency was established at Redstone Arsenal, Ala., to develop the Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missile. On Jan. 31, 1958, an Army Jupiter C rocket placed Explorer I, the United States' first satellite, into orbit. Three years later, Army Mercury-Redstone rockets launched Alan Shepard and Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom on sub-orbital space flights. In 1958, NASA was established, and, two years later, the entire Army Ballistic Missile Agency was transferred to NASA to become the nucleus of the agency's Space program. The Army has been on the front line of human space exploration ever since.

Since the beginning of the Space Shuttle Program, there have been 12 groups (or classes) of astronauts selected for space flight. All but two of them have included at least one Army officer. The Army's NASA Detachment, which currently includes four active-duty Army astronauts and an administrative assistant, is located at the Johnson Space Center at Houston, Texas. Frequently, the detachment also includes one to four space operations officers who are aspiring to become astronauts. The detachment is an element of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command (SMDC).

The Army astronauts are Col. "TJ" Creamer (the senior Army astronaut and commander of the Detachment), Col. Doug Wheelock, Lt. Col. Tim Kopra, and Lt. Col. Shane Kimbrough. Lou Moss is the administrative assistant.

The Army's NASA Detachment helps the Army define its requirements for the Space program and enhance the Army's use of space capabilities. Ultimately, these Soldiers are Army and SMDC ambassadors to NASA.

The Army has long been a key player in NASA's space shuttle program. The first Army astronaut, retired Brig. Gen. Robert Stewart, orbited the Earth in February 1984 on STS 41-B, where he became one of the first astronauts to maneuver un-tethered outside a spacecraft.

The Army's success in the shuttle program is just the beginning. The space shuttle and two types of Russian rockets are being used to launch and assemble the ISS. In all, over 350 tons of structures, modules, equipment, and supplies will be placed in orbit by the end of the decade. The ISS is the largest international cooperative space effort in history and, again, Army astronauts are playing a key role in its construction and operation.

The Army has had a prominent role in the station assembly. Col. (Ret.) Nancy Currie, selected in 1990, flew on the first U.S. Space Station assembly flight, STS-88, which launched a key module during the construction of ISS. Using the shuttle's robotic arm, she mated the U.S. built Unity Module with the on-orbit Russian built Zarya Module. Col. (Ret.) Jeffrey N. Williams, selected in 1996, Col. (Ret.) Jim Voss, selected in 1987, flew on STS-101, which repaired and replenished the fledgling Space Station. They also conducted space walks to further construction and maintenance. Williams also served as the science officer and flight engineer (first active duty Soldier to occupy the ISS for six months on board the ISS) during Expedition 13 in 2006.

As a further demonstration of Army support to Wheelock, SMDC/ARSTRAT Command Sgt. Maj. Ralph Borja along with the SMDC/ARSTRAT Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year Sgt. Patrick J. Mann and Sgt. Martin A. Jensen will be on hand at Cape Canaveral during the launch to watch their fellow Soldier begin his 14-day mission.

Video of the STS-120 crew members will air on NASA TV's Video File. For schedules, downlink information and links to streaming video, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv . For complete astronaut biographical information on Wheelock, visit: http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/wheelock.html


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Page last updated Mon October 22nd, 2007 at 12:46