Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Marine astronaut set to pilot shuttle today

Staff reportPosted : Tuesday Oct 23, 2007 7:48:34 EDT

When NASA launches the space shuttle Discovery today, the man piloting the craft will be Marine Corps Col. George D. Zamka, making his first spaceflight.

Liftoff of the seven-member crew is scheduled for Tuesday morning from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., according to an Army press release, though inclement weather may delay the planned 11:38 a.m. launch.

The mission will deliver an Italian-built connecting module to the station.
According to a NASA biography, Zamka graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1984. He trained on the A-6E Intruder at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash., and was assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 242 at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, Calif., where he was a Squadron Weapons and Tactics instructor. In 1990, he trained as an F/A-18 pilot and was then assigned to Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron 121. Zamka flew 66 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm. In 1993, he was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Marines at Camp Pendleton, Calif., as a forward air controller. In 1994, he graduated from the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, later serving as an F/A-18 Hornet test pilot and operations officer.

In 1998, he returned to VMFA (AW)-121 and deployed to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.

Two other service members will be onboard the shuttle. Air Force Col. Pamela A. Melroy will command the mission and Army Col. Douglas H. Wheelock will serve as mission specialist.

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