Friday, June 12, 2009

Black and gold astronauts

Friday, June 12, 2009
The two Purdue University alumni who will soon be aboard the shuttle Endeavour are no strangers to outer space -- or each other.
Space shuttle commander Mark Polansky and mission specialist David Wolf both graduated from the West Lafayette campus in 1978.

"Polansky knew (astronaut Greg) Harbaugh and Wolf as undergraduates," said John Norberg, a Purdue writer who has documented the school's history with space flight. "And now the two of them are going to happen to be astronauts and on the same mission."

In 2001 Polansky, of Edison, N.J., first flew as a shuttle pilot and commanded a shuttle mission in 2006. Polansky, 53, is a former Air Force pilot.

"Mark sets the pace for the crew," said Kieth Johnson, a NASA trainer and lead spacewalk officer on the mission. "He is more less in charge."

Polansky will also be using the Web site to post messages from space at

Around noon Friday, his posting included: "The crew is ready. It's time to go."

Wolf, a physician originally from Indianapolis, began working at NASA in 1983 on medical equipment for space travel. He later became an astronaut in 1990 and NASA Inventor of the Year in 1992.

"Dave brings a very unique background to this mission," Johnson said.

The mission will be the fourth for the 52-year-old Wolf.

The number of Purdue alumni working at NASA is not lost on anyone, said Amy Ross, a Purdue graduate and space suit designer.

Recently, when a Purdue co-op work student was introduced at Johnson Space Station, there were a few laughs, she said.

"People joked, 'Ah, another one.' "


Post a Comment