Discovery Astronauts Visit JPL

Space Shuttle Discovery astronauts made a stop at JPL to discuss their recent mission with scientists, engineers and future astronauts.

Mission specialists Stephanie Wilson and Piers Sellers spoke to a standing room only audience at JPL's von Karman Auditorium last Thursday.

The astronauts were part of a six-member Discovery team that was the first space shuttle to launch on Independence Day. They returned to Earth on July 17 after a successful flight.

During the mission, Sellers performed three spacewalks. Wilson controlled the robotic arm. This was Wilson's first spaceflight since being accepted into the astronaut program 10 years ago. The former JPL engineer shared her views on the experience with her former co-workers.

"When you are in space there are no borders," Wilson said. She added that the world seemed unified, with no country boundaries visible. "I was overwhelmed by the fact that it is all one," she said.

Sellers described how it felt to walk in space.

"Galileo was right," Sellers said. "We were rolling around the sun."

Both astronauts love their job but understand why the space shuttle program is coming to an end.

"The shuttle will retire in 2010," Sellers said. "They need to be upgraded."

In addition to performing planned experiments, their mission included a stop at the International Space Station, where they did repairs and dropped off German astronaut Thomas Reiter. He will be spending several months with the other two members of the station.

"We really worked from wake up to sleep," Wilson said. "There is so much work to be done."

They shared some down-time pictures, photographs of what they did for fun, such as drinking water and astronaut gymnastics in zero gravity.

Wilson wanted to be involved in the aerospace field since she was young.

"When I was in eighth grade, I talked to an astronomer," Wilson said. She was inspired to continue her research into the area of aerospace which is what lead her to JPL. She worked on the Galileo Mission before being accepted into the NASA astronaut program.

When Scott Moon, with dreams of being an astronaut, asked Sellers what the seasoned astronaut would advise him to do, Sellers said.

"If you want to be an astronaut, you have to be something else first," Sellers said. Moon is an intern at JPL and at Johnson Space Center.

"My ultimate dream is working as an astronaut," Moon said.

"You certainly have the right last name," Sellers said.

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