Feature

Text Size

Bringing Mars Closer
10.22.07
 
Pam Melroy in a training version of her orange launch and entry spacesuit
Astronaut Pam Melroy has some news for today's students.

"There's a child out there in school right now who will be the first person on Mars," she said. "It's extremely important to realize that this will happen in your lifetime, and you can play a part in this exciting adventure."

Image to left: Pam Melroy is the second woman to command a shuttle mission. Credit: NASA

A lot of work must be done before that first step is taken on Mars. That's why Pam is doing her part to make it happen.

Pam is the commander of space shuttle Discovery's STS-120 mission. The flight will be an exciting milestone for her. She will be the second woman to command the space shuttle. STS-120 will be an even bigger milestone for NASA, and for the International Space Station.

The space shuttle Discovery will carry to the station a new piece named Harmony. The name was chosen by students. Harmony will provide more room for astronauts to live inside the space station. It also will let future missions add even more pieces. Harmony has places where other countries' laboratories will connect.

The STS-120 crew has another job on the space station. They will move some solar panels that are not being used now. After they are moved, they will provide more power to the space station. Adding Harmony and moving the solar panels will be a lot of work. The astronauts will be busy.

Related Resources
+ Pam Melroy

+ STS-120 Mission

+ NASA Education Web Site

+ Mars

+ NASA Space Station Module In Perfect 'Harmony' With New Name

+ In Perfect Harmony

If people are going to walk on the moon and then on Mars, the work this crew is doing will be very important. NASA needs to learn more about living in space before people go to the moon and beyond. Astronauts learn about living in space on the station. The work done on STS-120 will help make it possible for more people to live and work on future station missions.

Pam has already learned some things about living in space. She has flown on the space shuttle twice, once in 2000 and again in 2002. She was the shuttle pilot for both of those missions. The crews of those missions also helped build the space station.

One thing Pam learned about living in space is that people should always listen to their mothers. "Everything your mom told you is important," Pam said. "She told you to chew with your mouth closed and pick up after yourself. In space, you can see what happens if you forget those rules. Cracker crumbs will get in people's faces and in computer hardware if you chew with your mouth open. Things will float away, get lost or end up where they shouldn’t if you don't keep them in their assigned places. Looks like moms really do know best!"

Flying in space was the result of years of dreaming and hard work for Pam.

"Being an astronaut was my life's goal," Pam said. "I was inspired by the Apollo program when I was younger. I wanted to do something worth doing -- something that could benefit the world. Exploring is a good goal and a great way to do something valuable. I decided to get to the space program by first becoming a military jet test pilot. ... Women couldn't be military pilots at that time. Fortunately, the rules changed just as I was the right age. I got in the program. My dream came true. But being a pilot isn't the only way to become an astronaut."

The seven crew members sit in training versions of their orange launch and entry spacesuits
Students who would like to take that first step on Mars need to work hard to get ready, she said. She said studying is important. Pam, for example, has a master's degree in Earth and planetary sciences.

Image to left: The members of the STS-120 crew are (from left) Pam Melroy, Daniel Tani, George Zamka, Doug Wheelock, Scott Parazynski, Stephanie Wilson and Paolo Nespoli. Credit: NASA

She said it is also important to be a good person to be around. "Who would you want to spend two years in space with?" she asked. "Develop team skills as well as academics. When it's time to choose from among five highly qualified candidates, they'll all have wonderful academic references. But your people skills will set you apart."

Students who would like to go to Mars will have to work hard to get there. But they can know that astronauts like Pam Melroy are already helping to learn what NASA needs to know to send people to the Red Planet.

 
 
David Hitt/NASA Educational Technology Services