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The crew of NASA Space Shuttle mission STS-117

Crew members of NASA's Mission STS-117 pose for their official portrait. From left: Flight Engineer Clayton C. Anderson (an Iowa State graduate), mission specialists James Reilly II, Steven Swanson, Commander Frederick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Patrick Forrester and John D. Olivas. NASA photo

ISU alum ready to soar

NASA's scheduled launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis on Friday, June 8, will include the first Iowa State University alum to become an astronaut. Clayton C. Anderson, who earned his masters degree in aerospace engineering at Iowa State in 1983, will travel to the International Space Station (ISS) where he will spend up to four months as a member of the Expedition 15 crew. And, he's prepared to give Iowa State some visibility in outer space. At a meeting in Houston last year, Iowa State President Gregory Geoffroy presented Anderson a university pennant, hat, and shirt to take on his space mission. See story.

Preflight Interview: Clay Anderson

Q: There are hundreds of thousands of pilots and scientists out there in the world right now, but there are only about 100 American astronauts, right? What is it that made you want to try to become an astronaut and be one of those people who fly in space?

A: I have a little argument with my mom back in Nebraska. She says I was ready to be an astronaut at age 4 when she dressed me up in tinfoil and I got second place in the local parade during July. She said I was robbed -- I should've gotten first. But my first recollection is the Apollo 8 experience when my parents actually got my brother and sister and me up in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve to watch them go behind the moon for the very first time. And for me, to watch that on black-and-white TV and, you know, all astronauts of, of my age bracket, we pretty much have the same story; it was Apollo or it was, you know, seeing them walk on the moon -- but for me the, the neatest thing was how scared I was when they went behind the moon, and then when they came back around on the other side and I finally heard that Quindar tone, the little beep everybody hears on TV and, and when I heard that tone and I heard them start to talk again, it just gave me this really chilled feeling inside. And I thought, wow, that is the coolest thing! At that time, of course, like everyone else, I wanted to be an astronaut or a professional athlete. And, luckily enough for me, I was able to become an astronaut later on in my life. See NASA interview.

STS-117: Just do it -- Again

If you missed either of the last two missions, now would be the time to catch up.

When Atlantis heads for the International Space Station in June, its mission may sound a little familiar. The crew will install a new truss segment, unfurl new solar arrays and fold up an old one -- all tricky stuff that's been done on the past two missions.

"I jokingly call those flights the test flights for us," said Kelly Beck, lead space station flight director for STS-117.

And with two successful missions leading the way, those involved with this flight are hoping it will be the best yet.

"We're really fortunate that we have those guys to follow," Atlantis commander, Rick Sturckow, said. "Almost everything went great on those missions, and the things that didn't go so well, we're able to learn from."

Along with Sturckow, the crew includes Pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Steven Swanson, John "Danny" Olivas, Jim Reilly and Clay Anderson, who will launch on the shuttle but remain on the station to begin a long-duration flight. Expedition 15 Flight Engineer Suni Williams, who has been aboard the station since December 2006, will return home on Atlantis. See NASA mission overview.


Clayton C. Anderson

Clayton C. Anderson

Quick look

Clayton C. Anderson, who earned an Iowa State University master's degree in aerospace engineering, is Iowa State's first astronaut. He's scheduled to ride the Space Shuttle Atlantis into space on Friday, June 8, as part of Mission STS-117.


"I went to graduate school in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University in Ames. The main reason I went there was they were one of the few schools that offered to pay me to go there, and they offered me a teaching assistantship. At that point in my career I needed a little help monetarily, so it was a great benefit."

Astronaut Clayton C. Anderson, who earned an Iowa State masters degree in aerospace engineering in 1983