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For release: 08/01/03
Release #: 03-134


Jackson county business is part of NASA's space shuttle 'orbit;' astronaut visit underscores important role company plays

Mention NASA's Space Shuttle to most people in north Alabama and they think of Huntsville — home of Marshall Space Flight Center — not Jackson County. But WWW Restoration Inc., a small, family-owned metal finishing shop in Woodville, Ala., puts Jackson County firmly into the Space Shuttle program's "orbit."


Mention NASA's Space Shuttle to most people in north Alabama and they think of Huntsville — home of Marshall Space Flight Center — not Jackson County.

But WWW Restoration Inc., a small, family-owned metal finishing shop in Woodville, Ala., puts Jackson County firmly into the Space Shuttle program's "orbit."

Owned by Jackson County natives Arvel and Rebekah Wilson, WWW Restoration is an eight-person shop that paints and finishes the Shuttle's tunnel covers, which hold the Solid Rocket Booster cables, and the tunnel floor plates.

In fact, the company's role is so essential it recently warranted a visit from former Space Shuttle astronaut Mike McCulley and David Martin, deputy project manager of the Space Shuttle's Solid Rocket Booster Office at the Marshall Center. McCulley, chief executive officer of the United Space Alliance in Houston — the company responsible for the day-to-day operation and management of the U.S. Space Shuttle fleet — joined Martin to tour WWW and to let the company's employees know they are an integral part of each Space Shuttle launch.

When company vice president Rebekah Wilson learned an astronaut was planning a special visit to WWW, she didn't even take time to clean off her desk. Instead, she did what any gracious Southern woman would do — she pulled out her cookbook.

A visit to WWW means a trip "up to the house" for a taste of Southern hospitality. For McCulley and Martin, that meant a full breakfast, complete with homemade biscuits and ham and homemade syrup.

"How often does an astronaut come to your home?" Wilson laughs. "When I first took the job as vice president with our company, my husband told me that I shouldn't cook for our visitors; it just wasn't the proper thing to do. But our visitors always come back."

The recent visit by McCulley — who piloted the Space Shuttle Atlantis during the STS-34 mission in October 1989 — and Martin is part of a nationwide program to recognize the people and companies that make the Space Shuttle's 5 million parts.

"People like the Wilsons and their employees keep the Shuttle flying," McCulley said. "Their commitment to safety is the basis upon which our astronauts commit to flight."

The Wilsons began WWW in 1979 as a restoration company, rebuilding used and antique vehicles in a shop next to their home. Today, the company has traded Fords and Chevys for more powerful vehicles like Endeavour, Atlantis and Discovery. The company also restores the mock-up of the Hubble Space Telescope used to train astronauts. During training, the Hubble mock-up is submerged in water so astronauts can simulate near-zero gravity. Because chemicals in the water take a toll on the mock-up, the unit needs regular maintenance — a task that falls to WWW Restoration.

The company employs eight family members and friends and boasts contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., United Space Alliance and Lockheed Martin, headquartered in Bethesda, Md. The company is a Shuttle subcontractor through Huntsville-based NASA sub-contractors Aerocraft, General Products and ProMachine, and through Santek Engineering of Guntersville, Ala.

"Our supplier's commitment to excellence and to maintaining high standards in safety and controlling their manufacturing processes is the basis of Space Shuttle safety and mission success," Martin said.

While visiting WWW, Martin and McCulley presented the Wilsons with a certificate of appreciation and a flag that flew on the Space Shuttle Columbia on Mission STS-109 in February 2002. WWW employees also received NASA/United Space Alliance caps.

McCulley and Martin also showed employees a video of how a Space Shuttle is readied for launch that emphasizes the importance of process and quality control in the workplace.

"I never expected to end up working with the Space Shuttle program," said Wilson. "We take a great deal of pride in all of our work. But, the fact that we work on the Space Shuttle is special to all eight of us."

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