Pennsylvania State University


New Penn State Web Site Lets You "Ask the Astronauts"

University Park, Pa. -- If you ever wanted to "boldly go" where only astronauts ventured before, here's your chance.

By logging on to a new Penn State web site, you can "talk" with the crew of the next Shuttle mission, "tour" the interior of the shuttle's portable laboratory, called SpaceLab, and keep tabs on the crew's latest activities.

The site is an unofficial project of the crew of Shuttle Mission STS-90, which includes Dr. James Pawelczyk, Penn State assistant professor of physiology and kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Development. While the site links with a variety of NASA and other space-related sites, it also provides unique opportunities. For example, the site has a Q&A section on the homepage where anyone can ask the crew a question and receive a reply.

The site has already started attracting awards including the Dr. Matrix Science Excellence Award; The Ultimate Links and Sites Award; the Safe for Kids Site of the Week; A Site to See Award; the TechnoMac Techno-award of Technology; and the Space Site Spaceviews of the Week.

The site was produced by the crew in their free time with the cooperation of Penn State's Center for Academic Computing and graduate assistant Kaspar Stromme. A master's degree candidate in the Department of Instructional Systems, Stromme constructed and maintains the site, and is using part of it as the basis for his master's paper.

Stromme says, "The crew wanted to share their experiences with spacefans all over the world. Through the site, anyone can follow preparations for the mission which is currently scheduled to launch on April 2."

The site contains a weekly update; crew biography; details about the mission and the crew's training; photographs of the crew in training; downloadable images of emblems and mission patches; background on the crew's orbiter, the Space Shuttle Columbia; launch information and insights on the best ways to view the launch as well as the Q&A.

Stromme is using Pawelcyzk's own "learning" site as the basis of his master's paper. The site is designed primarily for students in a class that Pawelczyk will teach -- live -- from the Space Shuttle. The class is part of a course, PHSIO/PSIO 510 Physiological Adaptations to Stress, under the direction of Dr. Peter Farrell, professor of physiology and interim director of the Noll Physiological Research Center.

Besides Pawelczyk, a payload specialist, the STS-90 crew includes: Rick Searfoss, lieutenant colonial in the U.S. Air Force, commander; Scott Altman, commander in the U.S. Navy, pilot; Dr. Rick Linnehan, veterinarian, mission specialist; Kay Hire, commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, mission specialist; Dr. David Williams, physician and Canadian astronaut, mission specialist; Dr. Jay Buckey, physician and faculty member at the Dartmouth Medical School, payload specialist; Dr. Alexander Dunlap, veterinarian, physician and faculty member at the University of Texas, alternate payload specialist; and Dr. Chiaki Mukai, physician and Japanese astronaut, alternate payload specialist.

STS-90 is also known as the Neurolab mission because it is dedicated to research on the nervous system and behavior. Its goal is to increase the understanding of the mechanisms responsible for neural and behavioral changes in space.

Pawelczyk is the first Penn State faculty member and the fourth University graduate to fly aboard the Shuttle.

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