WU’s Olivas Part of Shuttle Mission
West University Place resident John “Danny” Olivas, a NASA astronaut, is a member of the Space Shuttle Discovery team that launched into space Friday. The shuttle hooked up with the International Space
Station Sunday, as part of its 13-day mission to deliver equipment and a new crew member.
Olivas is well-known to many West U youngsters, since he has made frequent visits to West U Elementary School to give educational talks about NASA and space exploration.
Olivas, who holds a PhD in mechanical engineering and materials science from Rice University, flew on the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 2007. During that mission, he took two space walks.
The Discovery mission is likely to gather attention from the legions of followers of Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert, since the crew will deliver an exercise treadmill named in the comedian’s honor.
Colbert urged viewers of his late-night TV show to participate last year in NASA’s naming contest for a new space module. Although thousands of viewers voted to name it after him, NASA decided to send an exercise machine – the Combined Operational Load Bearing Exercise Treadmill (COLBERT) – into space instead.
In addition to the treadmill, the crew is delivering other heavy equipment, food and gear to the International Space Station. The mission also will replace one member of the team aboard the space station. The crew is commanded by veteran astronaut Rick Sturckow.
There are three spacewalks planned for the mission.
In addition to Sturckow and Olivas, the other crew members are pilot Kevin Ford and mission specialists Patrick Forrester, Jose Hernandez, Christer Fuglesang, Nicole Stott, and Tim Kopra. Another aspect of the mission is for Stott to take Kopra’s place aboard the International Space Station.