October 02, 2007

Higginbotham picked for second shuttle mission

by Tim Crosby


Caption follows story

CARBONDALE, Ill. — NASA has tapped Saluki astronaut Joan Higginbotham to soar into orbit again next year aboard the space shuttle Endeavour in a flight aimed at delivering equipment to the International Space Station.

Higginbotham, who will participate in a variety of homecoming activities this week at SIUC, flew her first mission as an astronaut last year as one of seven crew members on the space shuttle Discovery during STS-116. She served as a mission specialist on the December 2006 flight, operating the shuttle's robotic arm, overseeing experiments and coordinating cargo transfer to the space station. She also deployed small satellites after the shuttle undocked with the space station.

Media Advisory

Astronaut Joan Higginbotham will be available for media interviews immediately following her speech, set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the SIU Arena.

A Chicago native, Higginbotham graduated from Whitney M. Young Magnet High School in 1982 and earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from SIUC in 1987. She went to work for NASA immediately following graduation and later earned master's degrees in management and space systems from the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne. NASA selected Higginbotham as an astronaut in 1996.

William Osborne, dean of the College of Engineering at SIUC, said the University continues to take pride in Higginbotham's accomplishments.

"It is certainly a great honor for Joan to be selected to fly on the shuttle so soon after her last mission," Osborne said. "This is clearly a reflection of the quality of her efforts on the STS-116 mission."

Higginbotham's next mission, STS-126, is set to launch in September 2008. Its mission is to deliver equipment to the space station that will enable larger crews to live on board.

According a NASA news release, Navy Capt. Christopher J. Ferguson will command the mission with Air Force Lt. Col. Eric A. Boe piloting. Mission specialists in addition to Higginbotham include Navy Cmdr. Stephen G. Bowen, Army Lt. Col. Robert S. Kimbrough and Navy Capt. Heidemarie M. Stefanyshyn-Piper.

The recipient of the 1997 SIUC Distinguished Alumni award, Higginbotham will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday at the SIU Arena, as homecoming weekend activities get under way at the University. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, College of Engineering, SIU Alumni Association, SIU Foundation and others at SIUC are sponsoring the speech.

"Joan Higginbotham has seen life and our world from a perspective few have experienced," said Matt Baughman, assistant director of the institute. "We are delighted to play a role in bringing this remarkable, accomplished Saluki back to her alma mater, where she can share remarkable insights with audiences ranging from elementary school students to senior citizens."