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Astronaut Rick Mastracchio and Apollo Scientists to Highlight Alumni Weekend

Waterbury native, UConn engineering alumnus and astronaut Rick Mastracchio will headline a special presentation, entitled NASA Space Explorations: Past and Present, which will take place at the Storrs campus from 3 – 4:30 p.m. on Friday, June 4.

images/ecomm05172010/rickm2a.jpgMr. Mastracchio (B.S. Electrical Engineering/Computer Science,’82) recently completed his final space flight aboard the space shuttle Discovery, which transported more than 13 tons of hardware, supplies and equipment to the International Space Station in April. During his nearly two-week mission, he performed three space walks totaling more than 20 hours.

Following his remarks, a panel discussion including retired Hamilton Sundstrand engineers Donald Rethke and Richard Wilde, along with Mr. Mastracchio, will further underscore the important scientific contributions of the NASA Apollo and space shuttle programs. Drs. Rethke and Wilde will also discuss their experiences as members of various mission ground teams, notably the Apollo 13 rescue mission.

These special appearances, sponsored by the School of Engineering, will be held in conjunction with the University of Connecticut’s 2010 Alumni Weekend. The event venue is the Student Union Theater on the UConn Storrs campus.

Hamilton Sundstrand is a link that connects all three men. After earning his degree at UConn, Mr. Mastracchio worked for (then) Hamilton Standard as an engineer in the system design group (1982-87). He participated in the development of high performance, strapped-down inertial measurement units and flight control computers. He later worked at the Rockwell Shuttle Operations Company at the Johnson Space Center.

images/ecomm05172010/rickm2b.jpgMr. Mastracchio embarked on his NASA career in 1990, when he was hired as an engineer in the Flight Crew Operations Directorate and later worked as an ascent/entry Guidance and Procedures Officer (GPO) in Mission Control. During that time, he supported 17 missions as a flight controller. He was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996 and flew as a mission specialist on STS-106. He has logged over 950 hours in space and flown aboard the space shuttles Atlantis, Endeavour and Discovery. In addition to his UConn degree, Mr. Mastracchio also received two M.S. degrees, one in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (’87), and a second in physical science from the University of Houston-Clear Lake (’91).

Following his retirement from Hamilton Sundstrand as an Extravehicular Systems Engineering Manager, Richard Wilde became an aerospace consultant in space life support and extravehicular activities. At Hamilton Sundstrand, he led the system integration and certification of the U.S. spacesuit for use aboard the space shuttle and, subsequently, the International Space Station.

Donald Rethke, now retired from Hamilton but active as an educational guest speaker, is popularly known as “Dr. Flush.” From 1963 he was involved in engineering work on life support systems and space suits for the Apollo and later space programs, including the special zero-G toilets used on the shuttle and ISS.

Reservations are required. RSVP here.