||"CENTRE" blasts into space
RELEASED: November 19, 2009
By Leigh Ivey
DANVILLE, KY—Centre College's name is growing galactic.
On Monday, Nov. 16, astronaut Leland Melvin and the NASA STS-129 mission team rocketed into space aboard the shuttle Atlantis—and with them on board was a Centre pennant.
As a proud Centre "honorary alumnus" (Class of 2008), Melvin is carrying the pennant with him into space, where he and the team are traveling to the International Space Station to deliver supplies and return crewmember Nicole Stott to Earth.
"My road to science and math and exploration started with a chemistry set that literally sparked a strong interest in science," Melvin said in his 2008 Commencement speech at Centre. "I made this little mini-bomb… and it was really cool to see this intense light glow due to these hands mixing two chemicals. And I have never forgotten that light; it's always been a part of me."
Melvin attended the University of Richmond as an undergraduate while Centre President John Roush served as vice president of planning (before coming to Centre in 1998). The Roushs' admiration for Melvin during his undergraduate years led to their enlisting him to baby-sit their two elementary-aged sons.
After graduating from the University of Richmond, Melvin went on to receive a Master of Science degree in materials science engineering from the University of Virginia in 1991.
Seven years later, he reported for training with NASA, where he has served in the Astronaut Office Space Station Operations Branch, the Education Department at NASA Headquarters, and the Robotics Branch of the Astronaut Office.
While serving as co-manager of NASA's Educator Astronaut Program, he traveled around the country to speak with thousands of students and teachers about space exploration, inspiring them to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Last year, Melvin completed his first space flight on STS-122 Atlantis, spending more than 306 hours in space.
His current mission, slated to be the final space shuttle crew rotation flight, will take 11 days to complete. During this time, the crew will deliver invaluable spare parts to the International Space Station—parts that will add years to the station's "life."
"The spares are going up on two platforms—called external logistics carriers, or ELCs—to be attached on either side of the station's truss, in hopes that wherever a failure happens, the necessary spare won't be too far away," NASA explains on its Web page dedicated to the Atlantis mission.
It adds that "some of those spares would be used to replace failed components of the systems that provide the station power or keep it from overheating or tumbling through space. Others are essential parts of the robotics system that allow the astronauts to replace the other parts when they wear out."
Like the other members of the Atlantis crew, Melvin is thrilled to be part of the team with such an important mission. And he is overjoyed to be returning to space, an experience he discussed with the 2008 graduates.
"I wish I were a poet so that I could describe to you the beauty of our planet from 200 miles up above," he said. "Looking down on the planet from on high, there are no borders. It's one planet, one people, one humanity and we have to ensure that we do—what you do as the future leaders, as the future scientists, as the future astronauts—is to make sure that our humanity stays intact."
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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://www.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/
For news archives go to http://www.centre.edu/web/news/newsarchive.html.
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