Nicole Passonno Stott is a pretty cool Mom to her 7 year old son. Not only does she have cool hobbies such as flying, snow skiing, SCUBA diving, woodworking, and painting, but she's got a terrific show and tell job: astronaut. And even better — NASA sometimes lets mission crew members' kids try out the orbiter simulator.
On August 28th Nicole Passonno Stott launched into space to join the 6 member crew of the International Space Station. Nicole is making history as the 1st mother with a child at home to join the space station crew as well as the 5th woman to go into long duration flight.
Nicole's work has taken her to Europe and Japan where her husband Chris, who runs a space related business and son (whose name is kept private) have often joined her. Otherwise, Nicole stays in touch via video conferences and daily phone calls. Although she is an astronaut, most of her work keeps her on the ground, training and preparing for missions.
The trip from earth to the International Space Station will take 13 days. On day 5, Nicole and fellow astronaut, John D. Olivas will walk in space and gather materials from other shuttle experiments to bring back to earth when the Discovery returns. However, Nicole will stay on and live at the International Space Station, replacing astronaut Timothy Kopra. She is scheduled to return to earth in November.
According to Wikipedia, one of the crew's jobs aboard the space station is to learn how to move forward with long duration missions using innovative technology. The space station also serves as a laboratory where crews perform experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy and meteorology. International cooperation and educational outreach are also part of the International Space Station's mission.
The space station has been continuously staffed since 2000 and is a joint project between Russia, Japan, Canada and 10 European nations. Brazil and Italy also participate. Nicole will be living in a 200 pound space suit while she works. One fun task will be to assemble the treadmill named after comedian Stephen Colbert. Originally, Colbert campaigned to get a room in the International Space Station named after him during NASA's online contest, but had to accept the treadmill as his consolation prize. The official NASA acronym is Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill. And of course, the NASA crew will be running on the treadmill to keep in top physical condition.
Regarding her fellow space station joggers, Nicole states "I know them all really well." As reported by Houston Chronicle's Maggie Galehouse, Nicole went on to say "Everything we do prepares you for this kind of environment. And we all have our private space there." Born in Albany, New York, Nicole was raised in Clearwater, Florida where her father built airplanes in the family garage. Flying became her passion and direction while she attended Clearwater High. In fact, a group of her Clearwater High School friends are having a class of 1980 mini-reunion at the STS-128 shuttle launch. 46 year-old Nicole will be taking a flag from the school into space as well as wearing a Clearwater High T-Shirt for some of the live feeds. (Nicole is also the 2nd Clearwater High graduate in space. Fellow alumni Bruce Melnick flew on the Shuttle Discovery in 1990.)
According to Tampa Bay.com writer Eileen Schulte, Nicole's high school friend Jenny Buffington said that Nicole was so focused on her aviation studies that 'we'd be going to the beach and working on our tans and she'd be flying.' Nicole began her flying career with her private pilot's license at 18 and as a structural design engineer after graduating with a B.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. In 1988, she joined NASA's Kennedy Space Center as an Operations Engineer. Nicole held a variety of positions while at the Kennedy. These jobs included NASA Convoy Commander, Shuttle Flow Director for Endeavour and Orbiter Project Engineer for Columbia.
During this time, Nicole continued her education and graduated with an M.S. in Engineering Management from the University of Central Florida. Then, in August of 2000, Nicole began her two years of training and evaluation as an astronaut candidate. It was the second time she had applied to the program. Astronaut training includes courses in mathematics, geology, meteorology, oceanography, and orbital dynamics. Nicole also trained in land and sea survival. All of her commitment and drive paid off: in April 2006 she lived and worked with a 6 person crew for 18 days on the Aquarius undersea research habitat. Nicole's passion and focus is inspiring as well as extraordinary because NASA's shuttle program is scheduled to end in one year. But until then, you can keep up with Nicole while she's in space via http://blogs.nasa.gov where her blog is a feature on the site's home page.