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Apr 27, 2011 3:46 PM by Stephanie Collins

AFA grad to pilot space shuttle Endeavor

U.S AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. - An Air Force Academy graduate will pilot the space shuttle Endeavour and carry an Air Force Academy physics experiment into space.

The Endeavour is scheduled to launch this Friday at 1:47 p.m. Mountain Standard Time, from Cape Canaveral for NASA's STS-134 mission. Piloting the crew of STS-134 is retired Col. Gregory H. Johnson, a 1984 graduate of the Air Force Academy.

"We are an International Space Station assembly mission, one of the final ones," said Colonel Johnson. "We're taking up a very important experiment, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a science experiment that could change the course of physics. And we're also taking some pieces and parts up to the space station in anticipation of the shuttle retiring, because we only have a few more shuttle flights."

"I'll be the pilot; we have four mission specialists, [we're] doing four spacewalks, we have a lot of robotic arm operations and so I'm kind of the head arm operator overall, overseeing what we're doing with both the shuttle and the space station robotic arms, and I'll be taking part in both sides of that endeavor, moving the robotic arms, moving the pieces and parts around, inspecting the shuttle prior to reentry and after launch," he added.

The shuttle is scheduled to dock at the International Space Station on Monday, to begin transferring several experiments and supplies to the space station. Among those experiments is Canary, one of the latest creations of the Academy's Space Physics and Atmospheric Research Center. Canary is a 10 centimeter cube, and will be bolted to the exterior of the International Space Station. It is designed to investigate the interactions of approaching spacecraft and the background plasma environment around the space station. Canary is one of four scientific experiments in the payload of Space Test Program Houston 3, which is managed by the Department of Defense Space Test Program offices at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

The shuttle is scheduled to land May 14 at Kennedy Space Center. This will be the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final planned mission. The entire space shuttle fleet is slated for retirement, and only one planned space shuttle mission remains: Atlantis is slated to launch June 28 and land July 10.

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