The breathtaking view of Earth from the window of Discovery was well-earned by Charles
Camarda, MS ’80, and his crewmates.
In late July, Camarda served as a mission
specialist for the first leg of NASA’s “return
to flight” project. The goal of the mission
was to test new shuttle equipment and procedures
and to dock at the International Space Station
to install new equipment and make repairs.
The mission’s success marked the end
of more than two and a half years of NASA’s
recovering and rebuilding after the tragic
demise of Columbia and her crew.
Despite the pressure of the situation, Camarda
says he experienced no anxiety during the flight—even
as some insulating foam was released during
launch and an unexpected in-flight repair of
the orbiter’s flight surface was required.
“I was very relaxed during launch and
entry. In fact, if you ask my crewmate who
sat beside me, Wendy Lawrence, she will tell
you that I was laughing and shaking her the
whole way up. I trained for almost two years
for this specific mission and have been an
astronaut for almost 10 years,” Camarda
Along with phone calls from family members
and President Bush, Camarda enjoyed having
several items from home with him during the
flight—including a GW banner.
“I decided to carry banners from all
the universities I received degrees from because
I owe my opportunity to fly in space to a great
extent to the superb education I received at
these fine institutions. I also wanted to have
the opportunity to present this banner to GW
and to talk to the students and professors
about my experience,” Camarda says.