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05-04-2010

Clarkson University Alumnus is Lead Flight Director for May 14 Space Shuttle Mission

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/sarafin2.jpg]

Clarkson University alumnus Michael L. Sarafin is the lead shuttle flight director for the Atlantis space shuttle mission STS-132, scheduled to launch from Kennedy Space Center on May 14. Sarafin graduated from Clarkson in 1994 with a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering.Clarkson University Alumnus is Lead Flight Director for May 14 Space Shuttle Mission

The mission currently is the last flight scheduled for Atlantis. Including STS-132, there are only three remaining shuttle missions scheduled before the fleet is retired.

The six astronauts for the mission will deliver the Russian-built Mini Research Module, also known as Rassvet (dawn in Russian) to the station. The flight also will deliver critical spare parts and cargo. During the 12-day mission, three spacewalks are planned.

Leading a team of flight controllers, support personnel and engineering experts, a flight director has the overall responsibility to manage and carry out space shuttle flights and International Space Station expeditions. A flight director also leads and orchestrates planning and integration activities with flight controllers, payload customers, International Space Station partners and others.

In an interview with Clarkson magazine, Sarafin said that he appreciated both the co-op and classroom experiences, which he had as a Clarkson undergraduate. "The opportunity to work at NASA as part of the co-op program and the engineering knowledge I accumulated at Clarkson provided the foundation for my career at NASA," he said. "All those hours spent studying engineering and poring over physics and structural dynamics at Clarkson really paid off."

Through his resident advisor at Clarkson, Sarafin met someone working in the engineering directorate at the Johnson Space Center. He took a co-op job at Johnson Space Center, leading to a position, after graduation, as a space shuttle software engineer. He became a guidance, navigation and control officer in 1995, supporting 30 shuttle flights in Mission Control, and was named a flight director in 2005. He has supported 10 shuttle missions, including three as the lead shuttle flight director.

Sarafin’s brother, Jim, trains astronauts at NASA. The Sarafin brothers are Herkimer, N.Y., natives and graduates of Richfield Springs Central School.

Read more about Space Shuttle Mission STS-132 at http://www.nasa.gov/shuttle.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in six alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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