Discovery and the STS-131 crew landed at Florida's Kennedy Space Center at 9:08 a.m EDT after a 15-day mission delivering supplies and new science equipment to the International Space Station. Photo courtesy of NASA.
Astronaut Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger ’97 and the rest of the seven-member crew on NASA’s shuttle Discovery landed softly on Kennedy Space Center’s Runway 33 Tuesday morning, April 20.
It was reportedly a picture-perfect ending to a successful STS-131 mission that restocked the International Space Station with about 7.6 tons of new science equipment and spare parts, including equipment that should improve the station’s capability for Earth observation work and help keep the station’s systems cooling properly.
“It was fun; she had a good time,” said her husband, Jason Metcalf-Lindenburger ’99 at Kennedy Space Center Tuesday morning, relaying comments she made after the landing. “I’m happy for her that she had the adventure, and I’m happy to have her back on Earth.”
He said Dottie and the crew are getting their “sea legs” back this morning, and he expected she would be able to join him and their daughter at a hotel tonight.
One of Metcalf-Lindenburger’s most important responsibilities was the operation of a robotic arm and sensor used to detect any damage to the shuttle’s tiles, its thermal protection system. She was also the communications link between NASA’s Mission Control Center in Houston and astronauts Clay Anderson and Rick Mastracchio during their space walks outside the International Space Station as it orbited about 200 miles above the Earth.
Metcalf-Lindenburger was an earth science and astronomy teacher in Vancouver, Wash., when she applied to NASA in 2004 to be an educator astronaut. Her husband, a seventh-grade social studies teacher, said in an earlier interview he thinks NASA chose her in part because she is an extremely hard worker and has great team-building and relationship skills.
Metcalf-Lindenburger credits Whitman for many of those skills and said that college was “an amazing experience.”
“Whitman is not only where I got my education but a place where I had a total life experience for four years,” she said. “In teaching I obviously used my science, but then again my RA [resident assistant] skills came in handy ...”
— Virginia Grantier