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Mission Accomplished

The breathtaking view of Earth from the window of Discovery was well-earned by Charles Camarda, MS 80, and his crewmates.

In late July, Camarda served as a mission specialist for the first leg of NASA’s “return to flight” project. The goal of the mission was to test new shuttle equipment and procedures and to dock at the International Space Station to install new equipment and make repairs. The mission’s success marked the end of more than two and a half years of NASA’s recovering and rebuilding after the tragic demise of Columbia and her crew.

Despite the pressure of the situation, Camarda says he experienced no anxiety during the flight—even as some insulating foam was released during launch and an unexpected in-flight repair of the orbiter’s flight surface was required.

“I was very relaxed during launch and entry. In fact, if you ask my crewmate who sat beside me, Wendy Lawrence, she will tell you that I was laughing and shaking her the whole way up. I trained for almost two years for this specific mission and have been an astronaut for almost 10 years,” Camarda says.

Along with phone calls from family members and President Bush, Camarda enjoyed having several items from home with him during the flight—including a GW banner.

“I decided to carry banners from all the universities I received degrees from because I owe my opportunity to fly in space to a great extent to the superb education I received at these fine institutions. I also wanted to have the opportunity to present this banner to GW and to talk to the students and professors about my experience,” Camarda says.

—Laura Ewald