Maine’s Space Shuttle Connections (part 2) 

The next to last space shuttle mission launch is just days away and Maine has a number of ties to the program.Bangor International Airport is one of the alternate landing sites for a space shuttle returning to Earth.York High School Graduate Chris Cassidy made his first space flight in 2009 aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor and will be going to the International Space Station in March 2013.Frederick “Rick” Hauck was born into a Navy family, went to Tufts University, and studied nuclear engineering at MIT.He was a naval test pilot until he got the call from NASA.That lead to him being part of three trips into orbit on the space shuttle. “I recall each time, three times, walking out onto the platform, 180 feet up in the air, just before we’re getting ready to get into the space shuttle and here it is before sunrise, search lights are playing up on the space shuttle. It’s got liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen boiling off, so it’s making burping sounds and I remember turning to my cohorts and saying are we really going to do this? It’s extraordinary. You take it one step at a time, it’s extraordinary to think that in each case that we were going to get into that machine that once it lit off eight and a half minutes later we’re going to be doing seventeen thousand miles an hour and orbiting the earth every 90 minutes.”His first flight was in 1983. He was the pilot of the crew that included the first female in space Sally Ride. His second flight was the next year when he was the commander of Discovery. “Those first two missions that I flew before the Challenger accident, I had this confidence that NASA knows how to do it, this is not the safest thing to do in the world, but we know how to do it. In each of those two launches was I scared at lift off? Darn Right.”He was the commander of the first flight after the Challenger accident and told his family Mission STS-26 would be the safest in NASA history. “When we launched, I recall being exhilarated, here we’re finally doing it, we’re getting back up into space again and as we we’re approaching Mach 16, 16 times the speed of sound, I’m thinking this is incredible. How can human beings build a machine that can do this, and I thought I hope this doesn’t blow up. I had that conscious thought, and I thought well that’s not productive. Let’s push that to the side, watch the gauges and we’ll worry about that later.”Hauck, who now lives year round in Maine with his wife to be closer to grandchildren, still does a number of talks surrounding the space program, and kids are still in awe of an astronaut. “There is such a fascination with space flight. A typical question is how can I become an astronaut and the answer to that I think is really one of how can I be successful in life and a key I think is finding something that you enjoy and that you love to do and do it as best you can and the rest of your life will take care of itself, will flow from there.”He has plans to be at the next launch in Florida and still stays in contact with those he worked with on the shuttle. “My favorite part before I went into space was working with extraordinary people on an extraordinarily important project. My favorite part about being in space was the majesty of looking down on the Earth and experiencing weightlessness and feeling like I’m a great athlete when I’m not.”