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Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Jan 25, 2007 23:29:42 GMT -6
Chicago native calls trip on space shuttle indescribable
Since tapped for NASA's astronaut program more than a decade ago, Chicago native Joan Higginbotham privately questioned whether she'd ever get one of those space shuttle seats also coveted by peers she considered the cream of the crop.
"It seemed pretty much impossible," Higginbotham, a 42-year-old graduate of Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, recalled Thursday. "I really didn't know if I would be selected. I was pretty sure I wouldn't, actually."
She worried for naught and last month finally got a 5.3 million-mile experience truly out of this world.
The die-hard Chicago Bears fan joined six other astronauts on a 13-day flight of the shuttle Discovery, rewiring the international space station and delivering U.S. astronaut Sunita "Suni" Williams to the orbiting outpost for a six-month stay. Higginbotham spent part of her first mission in space being the chief operator of the space station's robotic arm.
Now five weeks since returning safely to Earth, Higginbotham was a star for at least a couple hours Thursday, grinning and gracious during a litany of media interviews from Johnson Space Center in Houston.
"If you give me all the time in the world, I can't describe how incredible that journey was," she said. "We are among a very small group of people blessed to do this."
"It was just an incredible journey, from ascent to entry," Higginbotham said, suspecting there's at least one truism to her time in space. "We are all just a small part of this entire universe."