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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Space Shuttle Endeavor’s Draper Connections: Astronaut, Technology, and Memorabilia of Apollo

CAMBRIDGE, MA –Astronaut Greg Chamitoff, Draper Lab Fellow (Class of 1992), took his first spacewalk on May 20 to upgrade the International Space Station. As the 201st astronaut to walk in space, Chamitoff and fellow astronaut Drew Fuestel installed antennas for an external wireless communications system, during their six-hour spacewalk, according to NASA.

Chamitoff worked as a Draper Lab Fellow while completing his PhD in aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1985 to 1992. He worked at the Lab for the following year before selection into the astronaut corps.

Draper provides full tuition coverage and a monthly stipend to its fellows for the duration of the student’s degree program. In return, the student performs their thesis research at Draper on a project that is of mutual interest to the student, the university faculty advisor, and the Laboratory.

In 2008, Chamitoff flew as a flight engineer and science officer on STS 124 and lived for six months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). In 2009, he returned to Draper to discuss his mission with current Draper Fellows and employees, and to return the Draper MEMS gyro he flew with him in space. While visiting the Lab, he also tested the lunar landing hazardous avoidance tool that Draper has been developing for NASA.

As a token of his appreciation to the MIT Aero & Astro Department and Draper Laboratory (formerly the MIT Instrumentation Lab), Chamitoff is carrying memorabilia of Dr. Charles Stark “Doc” Draper, the Lab’s founder. Doc’s letter to then-head of NASA Dr. Robert Seamans, Jr. conveyed his personal offer to serve as one of the astronauts for the Apollo Moon Program despite his age of 60 years. Draper expressed confidence in his Lab’s ability to develop the guidance, navigation and control system (GN&C) and guidance computer for the Apollo mission for which he had received the first contract NASA let on the Apollo Program.

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