Sunday afternoon we had the privilege of attending an official NASA crew return ceremony for the STS 119 Discovery astronauts and STS 118 crew member Sandra Magnus. STS 119 had been on a 13-day mission to the international space station to install solar wings and extra electrical power. The mission was a success, and the crew brought home Magnus, who had been on the station for 134 days.
"How do you say thank you to the tens of thousands of people across the world who contributed to this mission?" she asked, adding that when you're floating high above the earth, you feel the sense of team, the combined efforts and hopes of so many people "expanding human frontiers."
Led by commander Lee Archambault, the crew expressed their gratitude to all of the people and organizations that helped them complete their mission safely. Several members of Congress spoke, resolving to defend the value of the space program as the new administration moves forward. Judging by enthusiasm of the crowd, there are plenty of Americans who share their sentiment.
After the ceremony, the crew spent a lot of time signing autographs and talking to spectators. Most of the Boise State team got to shake their hands and ask questions about the experience of being in space, and for Barbara, it was like a homecoming, not to mention a reminder of the significance of NASA's continuing efforts to push the boundaries of possibility.
"You just got a piece of history," she said as we left the hangar.