December 04, 2006

SIUC plans alumnus' shuttle launch party

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. - Southern Illinois University Carbondale is holding a "launch party" on Thursday, Dec. 7, at the Student Center to celebrate SIUC alumnus Joan E. Higginbotham's first journey into space as a NASA astronaut.

The University invites the public to watch Space Shuttle Discovery's launch live on television in the Student Center's Renaissance Room, located on the first floor in the southeast portion of the building. The free event runs from 7 to 9:30 p.m.

The University will give away T-shirts, pizza and drinks. The party, sponsored by the Chancellor's Office and the College of Engineering, will remain a "go for launch" even if there is a delay in Discovery's scheduled 8:35 p.m. launch.

Higginbotham, a Chicago native and 1987 SIUC graduate in electrical engineering, is a mission specialist on the 12-day mission that will continue assembly and upgrades to the International Space Station. The launch party provides the University and the College of Engineering "with an opportunity for our faculty, staff and students to come together and recognize Joan's accomplishments," said John W. Nicklow, interim associate dean of the college.

The launch "provides an opportunity for students to see SIUC alumni as role models for their engineering careers," he said.
College of Engineering Dean William P. Osborne is among several SIUC officials who will be at the launch site in Florida and will meet with alumni there.

Several former SIUC graduates from the College of Engineering work for NASA, including Jeffrey G. Spaulding, a 1987 graduate in mechanical and thermal engineering from Rockford, who is one of NASA's two Shuttle Test Directors. Spaulding also is working this mission from the Kennedy Space Center.

Lizette R. Chevalier, associate professor and chair of the civil and environmental engineering department, said the celebration recognizes both the achievement of SIUC alumni and the potential of current students.

"We hope that the University and the community will want to look up into the sky after the launch, and reflect on what this means to us," Chevalier said. "I know I will. And I know I'll be saying, 'you did good! Now come home and tell us about this magnificent journey of yours.'"

(Caption : Saluki in Space — Astronaut Joan E. Higginbotham, a 1987 graduate of Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s College of Engineering, will be the first Saluki in space when Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off Dec. 7 from the Kennedy Space Center. Higginbotham earned her SIUC degree in electrical engineering, and began working for NASA two weeks after graduation as a payload electrical engineer. During the 12-day mission to the International Space Station Higginbotham will operate the station’s robotic arm, oversee experiments and act as the primary coordinator of cargo transfer between the shuttle and station. She will also deploy small satellites after the shuttle undocks from the space station, according to NASA.)

Joan E. Higginbotham

Joan E. Higginbotham
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