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May 11, 1999

James Hartsfield
Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center
(281) 483-5111

Release: J99-14

Dubuque Native to Play Lead Role in Upcoming Space Mission

Dubuque native Mark J. Ferring will be among the leaders of NASA's Mission Control at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, Houston, for the upcoming flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery to continue the orbital assembly of the International Space Station.

Although with 20 years of experience he is no stranger to Mission Control, Ferring will for the first time be serving as a flight director for the International Space Station, leading a team of flight controllers as it oversees the operations of the new orbiting outpost. Discovery is scheduled to launch at 8:32 a.m. CDT May 20 from the Kennedy Space Center, Fla., to carry supplies and equipment to the new space station. Discovery's cargo – ranging from laptop computers to clothes to food – will lay out the welcome mat for the first station crew, planned to take up residence on the orbital complex early next year.

Ferring's station control team will oversee the operation of the station before, during and after Discovery's visit, working closely to choreograph activities with other flight controllers located in Russia and with a Shuttle flight control team also located in Houston. As Discovery's crew unloads almost two tons of supplies from the Shuttle to be stored aboard the station, they also will perform several key maintenance tasks and prepare the station for the arrival of its next major component, a Russian-built crew living quarters planned to launch this fall. Discovery's crew also will conduct a six and a half hour spacewalk.

After Discovery's mission, Ferring's team will continue to monitor the station as it remains in orbit. In addition, he is assigned to lead Mission Control for another station assembly flight that will dock late this year, after the new Russian module has arrived. That mission, designated Shuttle flight STS-101, will be flown aboard the Shuttle Atlantis and will outfit the newly arrived living quarters.

Orbiting the Earth at an altitude of about 250 miles, the International Space Station currently has a mass of about 35 tons and is easily visible from the ground when flying overhead at dawn or dusk. Current sighting opportunities for the Des Moines, Iowa, area, along with more information about the station and upcoming assembly mission, are available on NASA's human spaceflight web site at

The station will be even brighter after Discovery has docked and the sightings information available at the above location will be updated continuously during the assembly mission. Additional information on Discovery's mission and the International Space Station also is available on NASA's human spaceflight web site at


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