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June 11, 2007

Astronaut Names

The docking went great today, and we were all relieved to see that the space station robots followed the instructions of their human masters and safely moved the 35,000-pound cargo from the shuttle to the station. I tuned in to the air-ground loop and listened to Suni (short for Sunita) and “Bru,” a nickname for Pilot Lee Archambault, relaying information about their robotic handiwork. I also heard that “JR” and Danny were preparing equipment for their spacewalk tomorrow, Clay had moved over to the ISS, and “CJ” was going over the shuttle navigation updates with the ground.

“JR” is obviously Jim Reilly, but “CJ”? No astronaut onboard the Shuttle or station has those initials.

Then I remembered that this was explained at the crew press conference back in February. “CJ” is an unlikely nickname for Shuttle Commander Frederick “Rick” Sturckow. How do you get “CJ” out of Sturckow?

It’s a military thing.

In the Marines, Sturckow (who holds the rank of colonel) had a squadron commander who was referred to as “Caustic.” Apparently, the young Sturckow looked like this man (he must have been a handsome guy!), and thus Sturckow became “Caustic Junior” or “CJ” for short.

As for Archambault, when we reporters first heard him called “Brew” during the press conference, we naturally assumed that this nickname had something to do with the Air Force Colonel’s after-hours social activities. The February press conference came just after the unfortunate Lisa Nowak incident involving her affair with Shuttle Pilot “Billy O.” (Do all shuttle pilots require a nickname?) The crew had already fielded a lot of questions about how they handle job stress. So Archambualt, realizing the obvious conclusion we were all jumping to about someone with a nickname “Brew,” did not let us leave without at least a cursory explanation. He told us that the correct spelling is Bru, not Brew, and that the letters stand for Bomb Rack Unit. With a shy smile, he added that the nickname was associated with a bad experience during a military training exercise and had something to do with an inadvertent loss of a bomb!

Someday, perhaps we’ll be fortunate enough to hear the whole story, maybe even over a “brew!”

The only other astronaut on this crew with a nickname is Steve Swanson, who is called “Swanny.” It would be most fitting if he were from Florida because “The Swanee River” is the state song, but the handsome 46-year old is from Syracuse New York, though he considers Steamboat Springs, Colorado his hometown. He did get his master’s degree (in computer science) from Florida Atlantic University. So maybe when he and Pat are out on their spacewalk Wednesday, passing over Florida, he may look down and hum, “Way down upon de Swanee Ribber, Far, far away, Dere's wha my heart is turning ebber, Dere's wha de old folks stay.” [from]

“Old folks” as in those of us stuck on the ground wishing we were able to travel into space “far, far away!”

But at least we have some fantastic technology in cameras and downlinks and the Internet and cable TV to give us “old folks” a virtual front seat on the action. We won’t have to miss the first EVA on Monday with JR and Danny. To see the airlock egress, get online or tune in your TV around 2:15 PM CDT (in case they get ahead of the timeline). They are supposed be back in the airlock by 9 PM. Their job is to connect a bunch of cables, release launch restraints (these have been troublesome on previous flights), and install the Solar Alpha Rotary Joint (SARJ) drive lock assemblies. As I mentioned in the last blog, the “zenith” utilities work around 4 PM may be especially worth watching.

JR is the lead spacewalker, having done three previous EVAs on an earlier assembly mission. He told the Houston Chronicle, “Knowing this is probably my last flight, I’ll just kind of try to remember everything because I really did not on the first two. I really want to just sit back and pay attention to everything that is going on—try to remember everything I possibly can.” I hope he has time to pause once in a while and take in the view.

And I hope all of you also get a chance to pause during your busy workdays and nights and take in the view. Try to remember the names of the crew—the people who are risking their lives to build a human outpost in space:

STS crew; CJ, Bru, JR, Danny, Pat, Swanny, Suni; and Exp 15 crew; Fyodor, Oleg, and Clay.

Thanks. We appreciate all that you are doing for us.

Marianne Dyson

Posted by m_dyson at June 11, 2007 02:10 AM



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