A 1994 graduate of Clarkson University is getting ready to play a leading role in the Atlantis space shuttle mission set to launch from Kennedy Space Center on May 14.
Michael Sarafin is the lead shuttle flight director, which means he's in charge of the flight controllers, support personnel and engineering
He has the overall responsibility to manage and carry out space shuttle flights and International Space Station expeditions.
"Clarkson obviously being my alma mater is near and dear to my heart and I know that Clarkson will take pride in the fact they've taken part in a space shuttle mission to the International Space Station and I look forward to coming back to Clarkson to talk about it," said Sarafin.
The six astronauts for the mission will deliver the Russian-built Mini Research Module, critical spare parts and cargo to the space station.
During the 12-day mission, three spacewalks are planned.
The mission currently is the last flight scheduled for Atlantis.
There are only three remaining shuttle missions scheduled before the fleet is retired.
"It is a bittersweet moment for me personally. I've spent the last 16 going on 17 years of my life supporting the space shuttle and I'll miss it. I really will miss it," said Sarafin in a telephone interview from Houston, Texas.
Sarafin graduated from Clarkson in 1994 with a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering.
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.
As a symbol of NASA's commitment to promoting engineering and innovation, a Clarkson University flag will be hitching a ride with Atlantis into space.
"The sole purpose of that is encourage students to get involved and to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics," said Sarafin.
He said the International Space Station will keep him busy for the next decade or so and then he may find himself involved in a U.S. mission to Mars.