June 7, 2007 -- University of Virginia alumnus Patrick Forrester is one of the seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis on its current mission to the international space station.
The mission will deliver and help install a new set of giant solar panels on the space station during the 11-day mission.
Forrester, who earned his master of science degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering in 1989 from U.Va.’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, will make one of three spacewalks during the flight, scheduled for June 13, beginning at about 3 p.m.
Space shuttle Atlantis also will carry an almost 400-year-old metal cargo tag from historic Jamestown, Va., in honor of the 400th anniversary of the founding of the first permanent English settlement in the Americas in 1607. After its roundtrip flight to the station, NASA will return the shipping tag to Jamestown for public display.
Forrester is a Mission Specialist 1 and will be involved with installing two pieces of truss to the space station. In addition, the mission will deliver some supplies and equipment.
As Mission Specialist 1, Forrester will be on the flight deck on the ascent and on re-entry, but he is also a robotics operator and will use a robotic arm to remove the trusses from the shuttle and hand them off to the space station robotic arm.
"The truss is kind of the backbone of the space station, and it’s at the end of the truss that we have our solar arrays and that’s what we use to provide energy, collecting it from the sun and then transferring into the station for power," Forrest explained in an interview published on the NASA Web site.
Forrest said that when he was first selected as an astronaut, crews were being named to begin the assembly of the space station and he was disappointed that he might have missed the chance to participate in that project.
"I remember being so disappointed thinking, wow, I missed it. You know, that was the thing that I wanted to do was to build the space station," he said. "We knew we had our training ahead of us and a lot of folks in the Office, and surely it would be built by the time I was trained and ready to fly in space. And to think back on that now and kind of smile and to know that even 10 years later I’m still having a chance to do that is really a lot of fun."
INFORMATION FOR THE MEDIA:
LIVE VIDEO AND AUDIO FEEDS, including of the spacewalk, are available through NASA:
NASA bio and high-resolution image of Forrester:
NASA media kit for mission (on right side):
Contacting Forrester will not be possible until approximately two weeks after landing, the week of July 2-6. For post-mission interviews, contact Gayle Frere at Johnson Space Center at (281) 483-5111.
Former astronaut Kathy Thornton, now associate dean and professor of Science, Technology and Society in U.Va.'s School of Engineering and Applied Science, is available to comment on Forrester's experience. She can be reached at (434) 982-3079.
NASA background information and high-resolution images are at: