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KNOXVILLE — A University of Tennessee alumnus will be in command of Space Shuttle Endeavour when it launches next Tuesday from Kennedy Space Center.

Astronaut Dominic Gorie will lead the crew of shuttle mission STS-123 on its 16-day mission. The mission has a distinctly international feel, with astronauts from France and Japan joining the Americans on the crew to deliver Japanese and Canadian additions to the International Space Station.

This will mark Gorie’s fourth shuttle flight — he flew on Discovery in 1998 and on Endeavour in 2000 and 2001. A former Navy captain, Gorie earned a master’s degree in aviation sciences from the UT Space Institute (UTSI) in 1990.

“We are very proud to count Dominic Gorie as one of more than 10 UTSI graduates who have become astronauts and flown on the Space Shuttle,” said Don Daniel, Associate Vice President for the UTSI. “All of us at the UT Space Institute look forward to a good launch next week, an exciting mission to the space station and a safe return to earth for Commander Gorie and the entire crew.”

Gorie, who served as a Navy test pilot, says that training combined with what he learned through UTSI was critical in his development as an astronaut.

“Everything we do in the Space Shuttle is based on being a test pilot, and the experiences and the flight design, and exposure to multiple airplanes and different platforms,” said Gorie. “Those two schools together — test pilot school and UTSI — gave me and other astronauts a great foundation to start doing what we’re doing.”

With five different spacewalks taking place during the mission, STS-123 is among the longest and most active missions ever, making Gorie’s job as commander even more critical.

“On this flight I can’t imagine a more exciting series of events,” said Gorie in a NASA interview. “I haven’t flown with this kind of mission before, but with this many spacewalks and this many robotics operations, it’s really an exciting flight to be a part of.”

In addition to supervising the various aspects of the mission as commander, Gorie will perform a number of complex maneuvers as the shuttle approaches the station to dock.

“That is one of the most exciting parts of the mission for me. You get to fly formation with the space ship being framed by creation underneath you that’s just spectacular,” said Gorie.

The Japanese addition is that country’s first contribution to the station. Astronaut Takao Doi of the Japanese space agency, JAXA, will play a key role in the installation process, and Gorie said he’s excited to be part of the moment.

“That’s going to be a very exciting, rewarding part of the flight,” Gorie said. “To see Takao’s face, knowing that he’s a JAXA astronaut, delivering their first piece of hardware is going to be really exciting.”

This marks the second consecutive flight of the shuttle Endeavour with a UT alumnus in command. Scott Kelly, also a UTSI graduate, commanded Endeavour’s last mission in April 2007.

Gorie says that the experience of being a shuttle commander has given him even more perspective on the intense level of work involved in bringing about a successful mission.

“Especially now, as a commander, you see what it takes on the ground and around the country and actually around the world now with the international presence growing,” said Gorie. “You feel like a smaller and smaller part of that with each subsequent flight, but to be a part of it at all is a wonderful feeling, and to see what we’re accomplishing is really tremendous.”


Jay Mayfield (865-974-9409, jay.mayfield@tennessee.edu)