On a day that marks the end of an era for the U-S Space program, students, staff, and interested onlookers at the University of Kentucky gathered to watch the launch. They were in a room designed to give them a feel for what’s happening at NASA. Just minutes before the final launch of the space shuttle in Florida, everyone jammed inside a simulator modeled after mission control in Houston. Senior Jason Rexroat offered some insight to prospective students, while other eyes focused on the simulator's television monitors and live coverage of a real space flight
“It’s a historic day. Any way you look at it. The shuttle program has been kind of the main stay of our manned space flight program for 30 years,” said Jim Lumpp.
Jim Lumpp directs the Space Station Lab at U-K. Even on this last flight of the space shuttle, researchers from Kentucky are involved. Experiments designed here on the mixing of liquids in a weightless environment are onboard Atlantis. Lumpp says losing the space shuttle complicates such research. For example, bringing those experiments back to earth will be more difficult.
“That’s the thing about the shuttle. It can bring hardware back. The progress vehicles the A-T-V and H-T-V vehicles or Japanese or European vehicles, they can take cargo up to space station, but then they are just actually burned up on re-entry on the way back down, they can’t bring anything back,” added Lumpp.
Lumpp says other experiments focus on agriculture and oil processing and production. Jack Lennon of St. Paul Minnesota was in Lexington to see what U-K can teach him in the area of engineering
“I guess I like math, if that sounds crazy enough, but that’s always been my passion. Flight and anywhere but here, but earth. See if we can get out there,” said Lennon.
For the rest of Atlantis' mission, students at U-K will use the simulator to track the shuttle's progress.