Cleared for Takeoff: Georgia Tech Graduate Is Crewmember On Shuttle Mission To International Space Station

Georgia Tech alum Sandy Magnus (Ph.D., MSE ’96) is part of the six-member crew aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on a mission to upgrade the International Space Station. Atlantis lifted off Monday, Oct 7 at 3:45 p.m.
The major objective of the 11-day mission STS-112 is delivery of a 45-foot-long truss segment that ultimately will expand the space station to the length of a football field and increase its power by adding new photovoltaic modules and solar arrays. Three space walks will be carried out to install and activate the truss and its equipment.

Magnus, 37, will serve as Atlantis’ flight engineer and will be one of the operators of the Canadarm2 robotic arm. It will grapple the huge truss, lift it out of Atlantis’ payload bay and maneuver it for installation. It also will be used to transport spacewalkers as they connect power and data cables and other hardware to the truss exterior, including the first of two human-powered carts that will ride along the railway, providing mobile work platforms for future astronauts.
Magnus received a Ph.D. from Georgia Tech’s School of Materials Science and Engineering in 1996. That same year, she was recruited by NASA and reported to Johnson Space Center for training and evaluation. The mission marks her first flight into space.
She joins a list of nine Yellow Jackets who have traveled into space aboard NASA missions, in addition to four Georgia Tech graduates who are currently training at NASA for future missions. The most recent was Mission Specialist Mike Massimino, a former professor in the School of Industrial and Systems Engineering who helped upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope.

Atlantis is the first space shuttle to launch since NASA grounded its fleet earlier this year after discovering tiny cracks in fuel lines on Atlantis and Endeavour. NASA announced in August it planned to repair the cracks and move ahead with its launch schedule.
“Engineering and ground-processing teams have done outstanding work in the past few months to ensure the readiness of Atlantis for a safe flight,” NASA Space Shuttle Program Manager Ron Dittemore said. “Because of the dedication and hard work of these teams, we have resolved the technical issues and are ready to resume the task of assembling the International Space Station. Atlantis is in great shape and ready to fly.”
The mission is commanded by U.S. Navy Capt. Jeffrey S. Ashby. U.S. Air Force Col. Pamela A. Melroy will serve as pilot. Mission specialists include David A. Wolf, M.D.; Piers J. Sellers, Ph.D.; Fyodor N. Yurchikhin, RSC Energia; and Magnus.
This will be Magnus’, Sellers’ and Yurchikhin’s first shuttle mission, Ashby’s third and Melroy’s second. This will be Wolf's third mission, his most recent being a 119-day stay aboard the Russian Space Station Mir in 1997 and 1998. Wolf and Sellers will conduct three spacewalks during STS-112 to install and outfit the new truss structure and spacewalk work platform.
The mission will be followed by Endeavour in November on a similar truss delivery and crew rotation that will take a new, three-person crew to the station and bring the current crew back to Earth.
A Georgia Tech Alum in Space
Magnus graduated from Belleville West High School in Belleville, Ill., in 1982 and went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in physics and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri-Rolla in 1986 and 1990, respectively.

Between 1986 and 1991 Magnus worked for McDonnell Douglas Aircraft Company as a stealth engineer, working on internal research and development and studying the effectiveness of radar signature reduction techniques. She also was assigned to the Navy’s A-12 Attack Aircraft program, primarily working on the propulsion system until the program was cancelled.

From 1991 to 1996, Magnus completed her thesis work, which was supported by the NASA-Lewis Research Center through a Graduate Student Fellowship and involved investigations on materials of interest for “Scandate” thermionic cathodes. She received her doctorate from Georgia Tech’s School of Material Science and Engineering in 1996.

Selected by NASA as an astronaut candidate in April 1996, Magnus completed two years of training and evaluation, which qualified her for flight assignment as a mission specialist. From January 1997 through May 1998, she worked in the Astronaut Office Payloads/Habitability Branch. Her duties involved working with the European Space Agency, the National Space Development Agency of Japan and Brazil on science freezers, glove boxes and other facility-type payloads. In May 1998 Magnus was assigned as a “Russian Crusader,” which involves travel to Russia in support of hardware testing and operational product development.

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.