Teacher Mark Robertson is fitted with an astronaut's gear by guest Dr. Tamara Jernigan.
On Thursday, November 2, space shuttle astronaut Dr. Tamara Jernigan visited Cottage Lake Elementary in Woodinville. Dr. Jernigan's visit was sponsored by the Cottage Lake PTA and highlights the school's curriculum emphasis of science.
Dr. Jernigan spoke to several class groups throughout the day about her career at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), especially describing her three space shuttle flights. She also answered questions from the students, including her thoughts on future space travel. "I think there is a kid in school right now who will be the first person on Mars," replied Dr. Jernigan. "It is your generation that will be the next explorers in space."
Dr. Jernigan also brought special props for her visit, including a mock space suit. Several students were allowed to try on the suit, but the favorite model was third grade teacher Mark Robertson. Fortunately, the suit was not fully equipped for space travel--the actual space suits weigh over 250 pounds and require a special crane to move the astonauts!
Dr. Jernigan currently is the Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. She has flown on three space shuttle missions, the most recent fight in March of 1995, and has logged over 854 hours in space.
She graduated with two masters of science degrees in physics and engineering from Stanford University, a masters of science degree in astronomy from the University of California-Berkeley, and a doctorate in space physics and astronomy from Rice University.
She was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1985 and became an astronaut in July, 1986. Her duties have included software verification in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory; operations coordination on secondary payloads; spacecraft communicator in Mission Control for five shuttle missions; lead astronaut for flight software development; and Chief of the Astronaut Office Mission Development Branch.