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Astronaut Wilmore to phone home from space

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From Post staff reports

Talk about calling long distance.

Mt. Juliet High junior Shelley Choudhury will be among several Tennessee students questioning NASA shuttle pilot Barry “Butch” Wilmore during a phone up-link scheduled Sunday, Nov. 22.

Capt. Wilmore, himself a 1981 graduate of Mt. Juliet High, and the rest of crew of Atlantis, blasted into space Monday afternoon from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center -- marking the beginning of the end of the space shuttle program.

Atlantis will deliver some 15 tons of equipment to the International Space Station and return one of its crew members to Earth during an 11-day mission.

The spacecraft is expected to dock with the ISS sometime today (Wednesday).

Choudhury won the chance through a question contest with Wilmore’s alma mater -- Tennessee Tech.

Choudhury says she is looking forward to speaking with Wilmore while he orbits in space.

Her question, “If your communication devices failed in space what would you do about that – cause that’s going to be a major issue.”

“All I will be thinking about is, ‘I never thought I would be here asking an astronaut a question while they’re in space!’ You never would dream of that and it’s so cool that I get the opportunity,” she said.

Capt. Wilmore, 46, invited several of his old high school coaches to watch the lift-off in Florida.

A former linebacker for the Golden Bears, Wilmore took a Mt. Juliet High School jersey to space.

When his mission is complete, the jersey will be displayed at the school.

The six crew members were busy Tuesday surveying the shuttle’s thermal protection system, checking out spacesuits and grappling the Express Logistics Carrier 1.

The crew was also scheduled to install the centerline camera, extend the Orbiter Docking System ring and checkout rendezvous tools in preparation for docking to the ISS today.

On Monday, Wilmore, Commander Charles O. Hobaugh and Mission Specialists Leland Melvin and Randy Bresnik used the 50-foot-long shuttle robotic arm and its 50-foot-long orbiter boom sensor system to get an up close look at the tiles of Atlantis’ wing leading edges and nose cap.

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