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Students Meet STS-118 Crew Members
Educator Astronaut and Mission Specialist Barbara Morgan and Mission Specialist Dave Williams met with more than 100 Texas elementary and middle schools students during Space Center Houston’s “Meet an Astronaut Day” on Jan. 19.

Morgan and Williams talked about their upcoming flight, STS-118. Scheduled to launch no earlier than June 28, STS-118 will continue assembly of the International Space Station by delivering a third starboard truss segment. On her first flight, Morgan will operate the shuttle and space station’s robotic arms. Williams, of the Canadian Space Agency, will make his second trip into space and conduct several spacewalks.

The mission’s lead shuttle flight director Matt Abbott and lead ISS flight director Joel Montalbano first greeted the students, introducing them to a flight director’s responsibility in leading the mission, and emphasizing the value of teamwork at NASA and in the classroom.

JSC2007-E-03811 --- Barbara Morgan, educator astronaut Image to right: Barbara Morgan, educator astronaut, is pictured during a demonstration at Space Center Houston. Credit: NASA

Montalbano related the students’ teamwork on school projects to the 16-country collaboration of the ISS. “Working with people from all over the world is probably the best part of our job,” he said.

Morgan and Williams discussed their roles in the upcoming mission, how they will contribute to the space station and answered students’ many questions about spaceflight.

Introducing their fellow crew members through photographs, Morgan and Williams touched briefly upon each crew member’s educational background.

“I think it’s important to point out that you can join the astronaut program with a wide range of backgrounds,” Williams said.

Williams earned a doctorate in medicine from McGill University in 1983. He joined the astronaut corps in 1995 and flew aboard space shuttle Columbia as a mission specialist in STS-90.

As Morgan and Williams explained their upcoming mission’s objectives, a series of photographs depicting the space station, the space shuttle payload and astronauts performing spacewalks flashed across the screen.

Colorful fluorescent spheres on a black background elicited gasps from the students in the audience when Morgan explained that each sphere was a galaxy.

When a student asked Morgan how many galaxies there were, Morgan said: “That is one of the mysteries of our universe. I hope you’ll be able to help us answer that question.”

Williams reminded students that they can accomplish anything they set their minds to. He told the audience he had dreamed of becoming an astronaut in the 1960s, when Canadians had not yet flown in space.

“Don’t use the word impossible,” he said. “Dreams can come true with a lot of hard work, patience and persistence.”

JSC2007-E-03712 --- Educator astronaut Barbara Morgan speaks with students Image to left: Educator astronaut Barbara Morgan speaks with students during Space Center Houston's "Meet an Astronaut Day" on Jan. 19. Credit: NASA

Morgan earned a bachelor’s in human biology from Stanford University in 1973 and started teaching elementary math and science in 1974. She later served as the backup to Christa McAuliffe in the Teacher in Space Program. In that role, Morgan trained with McAuliffe, who was lost with her crew mates in the Space Shuttle Challenger accident in 1986.

Morgan joined the Astronaut Corps in 1998 as the first educator astronaut. There are now three additional educator astronauts: Joe Acaba, Ricky Arnold and Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger.

As the first educator astronaut to fly in space, Morgan emphasized the importance of teaching as a profession, and what an important role teachers play in their students’ lives.

“When I was little I wanted to be a teacher because I loved my teachers and I loved my classes,” she said. “I’m glad I chose to do it, because it’s the best job in the world, and I would put in a plug if any of you are considering being teachers.”

In the afternoon, astronaut Stanley Love spoke to 300 Texas high school students about what it is like to train for a mission, and what he is preparing for in the upcoming STS-122 mission. Love joined the Astronaut Corps in 1998 and earned his master’s and Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of Washington in 1989 and 1993, respectively. STS-122 will deliver the European Space Agency’s Columbia Laboratory to the International Space Station.

Donna Lin/JSC PAO