ALJ Grad To Pilot Shuttle Mission

Astronaut Kenneth T. Ham will pilot the space shuttle Discovery next month on a mission to bring a Japanese science laboratory unit to the International Space Station. Ham, a 1983 graduate of Arthur L. Johnson High School, will be making his first space flight.

Ham, 43, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1987. He has flown combat missions over North Iraq and Bosnia during two deployments to the Mediterranean Sea and has been a test pilot. He joined NASA in 1998.

“Ken is critical to the success of this mission,” said astronaut Mark Kelly, Discovery’s commander. “He is a very talented test pilot and astronaut.”

In addition to his duties as the pilot of Discovery, Ham will also choreograph three space walks and operate the shuttle’s robotic arm, Kelly said.

STS-124, currently scheduled for a May 31 launch, will bring the main segment of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Kibo laboratory complex to the International Space Station. The bus-sized module will be the station’s largest laboratory – so large that it needs to be launched in three stages. A logistics module was launched in March, and a third mission to complete the complex will bring an exterior platform that will allow experiments to be exposed to space.

“It’s going to be a world-class laboratory,” said Kelly. “It’s its own little spacecraft, in the sense that it has an environmental system, electrical system, its own computer system, its own robotic arm. It’s got a lot of capability, and I’m hopeful that over the years that laboratory produces significant discoveries in the fields of chemistry, physics, material science, life sciences. It certainly has that potential.”

Ham and his wife Michelle have two children, Ryan and Randy.

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