Army Astronaut Blasts Off
Attired in a training version of the Extravehicular Mobility Unit spacesuit, Col. Douglas H. Wheelock, STS-120 mission specialist, awaits the start of a training session

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 23, 2007) -- Army Astronaut Col. Douglas H. Wheelock blasted off at 11:48 a.m. Tuesday as the Space Shuttle Discovery launched from Kennedy Space Center, Fla., with a mission of delivering equipment to the International Space Station.

The seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle are to spend 14 days in space during the mission and are scheduled to conduct five space walks. Objectives for the flight include delivering a new modular addition to the space station and to move a tower of solar arrays to a new position on the orbiting laboratory.

The flight will also deliver Astronaut Daniel Tani to help man the space station and bring home his predecessor, Flight Engineer Clayton Anderson.

The mission, STS-120, is the 23rd shuttle mission to the International Space Station. Retired Air Force Col. Pamela A. Melroy is commanding the mission. She is the second woman to command a space shuttle.

A series of recent shuttle missions have added to the International Space Station's exterior with new elements for its main truss. Now, Discovery will take into orbit a connecting module that will increase the orbiting laboratory's interior space.

The STS-120 mission will bring the Harmony module, christened after a school contest, that will provide attachment points for European and Japanese laboratory modules. Known in technical circles as Node 2, it is similar to the six-sided Unity module that links the U.S. and Russian sections of the station.

"STS-120 is such a cool mission," said Col. Melroy. "Node 2 is the expansion of the space station's capability to bring international laboratories up. It's the expansion of our capability to carry additional people.

"It has additional life support equipment that will allow us to expand out beyond a three-person crew. It's this big boost in the capability which is really exciting," she said.

Built in Italy for the United States, Harmony is a high-tech hallway and Tinkertoy-like hub. It is a 23- by 14-foot passageway that will connect the U.S. segment of the station to the European and Japanese modules, to be installed later this year and early next year, respectively.

Harmony will be the first new U.S. pressurized component to be added to the station since the Quest Airlock was attached to one of Unity's six berthing ports in 2001.

"It's the gateway to the international partners," Lead Station Flight Director Derek Hassman said. "As the station is configured today, there's nowhere to put all the international partner modules until we deliver and activate Node 2. That's the piece that makes the rest possible."

Marine Corps Col. George D. Zamka will serve as pilot for the space shuttle. The flight's mission specialists will be Scott E. Parazynski, Army Col. Wheelock, Stephanie D. Wilson and Paolo A. Nespoli, a European Space Agency astronaut from Italy. Wheelock, Zamka, and Nespoli will be making their first spaceflight.

Col. Wheelock is a dual-rated Master Army Aviator; and has logged over 2,500 flight hours in 43 different rotary and fixed-wing aircraft. He is also an FAA-rated Commercial Pilot in single and multi-engine land craft, rotorcraft, and gliders.

Col. Wheelock reported for Astronaut Candidate Training in August 1998. Following the initial two years of intensive Space Shuttle and Space Station training, he was assigned to the Astronaut Office ISS Operations Branch as a Russian Liaison, participating in the testing and integration of Russian hardware and software products developed for the ISS. He worked extensively with the Energia Aerospace Company in Moscow, Russia, developing and verifying dual-language procedures for ISS crews. Colonel Wheelock led joint U.S./Russian teams to the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan to oversee bench reviews, inventory, loading and launch of the first four unmanned ISS resupply capsules.

In 2001, Col. Wheelock assumed duties as the Crew Support Astronaut for the ISS Expedition 2 crew, which was on orbit for 147 days from March 2001 to August 2001, and for the ISS Expedition 4 crew, which was on orbit for 195 days (U.S. long-duration record) from December 2001 to June 2002. He was the primary contact for all crew needs, coordination, planning and interactions, and was the primary representative of the crews while they were on orbit. In August 2002, Col.Wheelock was assigned as a Spacecraft Communicator in the Mission Control Center in Houston. In this role, he was the primary communication link between crews on orbit and the ground support team in the Control Center. His work as a CAPCOM culminated in his assignment as the lead CAPCOM for the ISS Expedition 8 mission, which was 194 days in duration.

In January 2005, Col. Wheelock was assigned to the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, as NASA's Director of Operations-Russia. He was responsible for supporting Russia-based training, logistic, and administrative needs of NASA astronauts preparing for flight on the ISS. Col. Wheelock was the primary liaison between Star City and NASA operations in Houston, including medical, training, science, contracting, public affairs, and administration departments. He was also responsible for liaison duties between NASA and the Russian Space Agency, as well as the Russian aerospace industry.

Col. Wheelock has completed qualification in the Extravehicular Activity Skills program, the Canadian Space Agency MSS Robotics Operator course, and qualification as a Cosmonaut Flight Engineer in the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Page last updated Tue October 23rd, 2007 at 13:00