CLEVELAND — It’s been a long walk home for astronaut and Wadsworth native Michael Foreman and his crew members.
Foreman was one of seven crewmembers on Space Shuttle Atlantis for mission STS-129, a utility logistics support mission to the international space station that launched Nov. 16. The astronauts were in space for 11 days and traveled 4.5 million miles.
“My primary job was lead spacewalker,” Foreman said of the mission. “I was responsible for the space walks, the procedures, the training.”
Members of NASA’s STS-129 mission, including Wadsworth native Michael Foreman, presented an overview of their mission to deliver spare parts and perform maintenance on the international space station on Wednesday at NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland. The 4.5-million-mile mission launched Nov. 16 and lasted 11 days. In front is a model of the space station. From left are: Commander Charles Hobaugh, pilot Barry Wilmore, mission specialists Randy Bresnik, Michael Foreman, Leland Melvin and Bobby Satcher. Mission specialist Nicole Stott did not attend. (Lisa Hlavinka / Gazette)
On Wednesday, the crew presented a 20-minute video of their mission for an audience of employees at NASA Glenn Research Center. Narrating the video, the crew took turns describing the tasks they performed and the peculiarities of being in space.
With the space shuttle program set to end this year, NASA is using the final years of the program to build up a store of replacement parts on the space station. On STS-129, the shuttle crew delivered about 30,000 pounds of replacement parts for systems that provide power to the station, keep it from overheating and maintain a proper orientation in space, according to NASA.
STS-129 included three space walks and the installation of two platforms to the space station’s truss, or backbone. The platforms hold large spare parts to sustain station operations after the shuttles are retired.
The video showed images of a blue Earth behind the space station while the astronauts performed maintenance on the exterior.
“To try to describe the color of the ground and the ocean … you would almost have to be a poet to describe it,” mission specialist Leland Melvin said.
Foreman said the term “space walk” is a misnomer because there is “no walking involved,” as Foreman’s crewmate Randy Bresnik put it.
Rather, the astronauts travel along the football field-sized space station using their hands to propel them, no easy task in a pressurized space suit that makes it difficult to grasp anything, Foreman said. In addition, the walks take about six hours to complete.
“Every time you squeeze your hand, it’s like squeezing a tennis ball,” Foreman said.
Videos of the crew paling around in space indicated they had become close friends during the course of STS-129. They played with the absence of gravity, catching floating drops of water and M&Ms in their mouths, and playing tackle football in zero gravity.
They also ate Russian “delicacies” from a can, along with food from around the world left at the space station.
“You really get to know your crewmates when you’ve been thrown together for 12 to 14 months training for a mission,” Foreman said. “We give each other a hard time and kid each other.”
Mission Commander Charles Hobaugh, a graduate of North Ridgeville High School in Lorain County, said Foreman, as the oldest member of the crew at 52, was sort of like the “adult supervisor” of the group.
“He’s in the top 20 for spacewalk hours,” Hobaugh said. “He’s definitely a guy you can lean on and ask questions.”
Other members included pilot Barry Wilmore and mission specialists Bobby Satcher and Nicole Stott.
Earlier in the day, the crew presented a specially minted silver coin at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton that will be used in the official coin toss for Super Bowl XLIV. The coin, along with a football with every member of the Hall of Fame inscribed on it, traveled with the Atlantis crew to the space station.
Foreman, who now resides in Houston, said he’s “an AFC guy,” so he’ll probably be “pulling for the Colts.”
This is the second time Foreman has traveled to space. In 2008, he flew as a mission specialist on STS-123 and performed three spacewalks. He performed two of three spacewalks on STS-129.
He said he always dreamed of being an astronaut while he was a kid growing up in Wadsworth. After graduating from Wadsworth High School in 1975, he earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.
Even with his education, Foreman, a former Navy captain, had to apply eight times to get into Navy pilot school, and eight more times to become a NASA astronaut, which he accomplished in 1996.
He said children dreaming of going to space should attempt to build a background in math, science and engineering.
He also said that regardless of career choice, children should find out what they love in life and focus on it.
“I tell everybody, you need to find what you really love to do … focus on that, get good grades, work hard and be successful,” he said. “And if you like what you do, it’s easier to become successful.”
Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.