Stennis Engineers Overjoyed, Relieved By Shuttle Launch - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

07/26/05

Stennis Engineers Overjoyed, Relieved By Shuttle Launch

NASA employees around the country including those at Stennis Space Center anxiously watched the Space Shuttle Discovery take off Tuesday morning. Discovery's three main engines were tested at the Hancock County facility.

Three-year-old Zachary was more than ready to see the shuttle launch. His mother, Dinna Cotrell, is a NASA engineer.

"He calls it a space rocket. He wants to see it go up because Mommy talks about it all the time."

Dinna Cotrell took her family to Stennisphere to share the excitement of Discovery's liftoff.

"It's very meaningful for me to see us return to flight because we need to do it for the space industry and for the United States."

Discovery took off carrying the hopes and dreams of aspiring astronauts. After the Columbia tragedy, some feared the space program would end. NASA engineers say watching a successful launch brought a mixture of great joy and relief.

"I noticed when they were in the last final minute before lighting the engines that I was sitting there twitching," said engineer Michael Nichols. "Every nerve is on end waiting to see that it all goes well and, of course, it did."

Phillip Hebert, another engineer, said "It was beautiful. We couldn't ask for anything better."

As Cotrell watched years of hard work ascend into space, she wasn't surprised when the tears started to fall.

"It's such a moving moment to see it go back up," she said. "I'm very proud. I love working for NASA. It's a joy."

Stennis engineers also studied the dangers of ice forming on the external fuel tank's insulation. NASA investigators for the Columbia disaster ruled that ice caused a piece of foam to fall off the tank and puncture a wing which caused the tragedy.

by Danielle Thomas

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