Saturday Morning Science ISS Science Officer

The second designated NASA ISS science officer was Don Pettit, flight engineer on the sixth expedition crew (161 days between 23 November 2002 and 3 May 2003). His background before selection as an astronaut included earning a PhD as a chemical engineer and thirteen years working at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Having long been interested in the space programme, Pettit first tried to join the astronaut corps in 1983. He had been interviewed four times and his persistence (and additional career experiences) finally paid off with his selection in 1996.8

Pettit was in training as back-up crew member (for Don Thomas) for ISS-6 and in line to fly to the station as a member of the prime crew for ISS-13, but when Thomas was grounded due to medical disqualification three months prior to launch, Pettit was reassigned to fly the mission. Fortunately, the ISS residency training programme meant he had performed a significant amount of training with the prime crew over the previous eighteen months, making the transition smoother. His main challenge now was to come to terms with flying in space two years before he expected to.

During Expedition Six, Pettit would oversee a package of experiments in bio-astronautics research (ten experiments), physical sciences (six experiments), space product development (two experiments) and space flight development (three experiments). The crew was launched on the Shuttle Endeavour (STS-113 in November 2002) and were scheduled to return aboard STS-114 in the spring of 2003, but during their residency, the orbiter Columbia and her crew of seven were lost in February 2003, grounding the Shuttle for over two years. This meant that logistics would have to be supplied to the station in smaller amounts using the Russian Progress tankers, and the resident crews were reduced to two persons from ISS-7 onwards. The ISS-6 crew returned to Earth aboard Soyuz TMA-1 in May 2003.

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