Source: Sherman Publications

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...We have liftoff

May 18, 2011

By Matt V. Phillips

Special Writer for The Review

While most Lake Orionites were making their Monday morning commute to their jobs down local freeways and perhaps even on airplanes, one former resident was taking a different route to work aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour!

1983 Lake Orion High School graduate Drew Feustel was part of a six-person crew that lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL on Monday, May 16, at 8:56 a.m.

During a recent interview, Feustel said, "There are a few aspects of this Mission that I am really excited about, such as actually living aboard the ISS for a week, contributing to space exploration and science, conducting the spacewalks, and the launch itself, but the kid in me is looking forward to being in the weightless environment again, it's just a lot of fun to float around."

The crew of Endeavour also includes Commander Mark Kelly; Pilot Gregory H. Johnson; and Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff, and European Space Agency's Roberto Vittori. Commander Kelly is the husband of U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords who was the victim of a shooting in Arizona this past January. In addition to the intense Mission preparations, Kelly has been assisting his wife at a Houston Rehabilitation facility. A major step in her progress was realized when Representative Giffords was in attendance for the launch.

This mission was originally scheduled for April 29, but a failure within the APU heating unit scrubbed the launch just hours before lift off and sent repair team scrambling to complete the repairs and get this shuttle off of the ground. It was a different story on Monday, as both the Shuttle and the weather cooperated. According to Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Space Operations, "I can't thank the teams that got this vehicle ready to fly and for all the work they've done - - the teams stayed focused, and made this launch a success."

A half million pectators and millions more who watched on TVs and computer screens across the world not only viewed the launch as a success, but were in awe as Endeavour's main engines ignited, hurtling machine and crew into orbit.

Low cloud cover, however, limited ground view of the launch to just 22 seconds. During the post launch press conference, Mission Management Team Chairman Mike Moses, joked, "The data that we were looking at in the launch center was absolutely perfect . . . We had the clouds where we needed them, so we went."

During the 16-day mission, Feustel will make three of the four scheduled Space Walks to conduct maintenance on the ever-expanding International Space Station (ISS). The entire crew will be busy during their aggressive mission, but we can imagine that Feustel and his teammates will be working with a smile since eight minutes after lifting off from earth, the crew was transformed into kids again, floating in the weightless environment of space.

Special feature - Please be sure to check back with The Lake Orion Review in the coming weeks for updates.