Heartland Astronaut Source of Hometown Pride

On Thursday morning, a Heartland native will be taking a trip the whole world will be watching.
In the first shuttle launch since September eleventh, four American astronauts will fly on a mission to the International Space Station. One of them will be Jackson native Dr. Linda Godwin.

This is actually Godwin's fourth trip into space. She also went on missions in 1991, 1994, and 1996. People around the heartland say they couldn't be more proud.

"It was really something unusual for someone in the community like this to be an astronaut," says Evelyn Gholson.

Godwin grew up in a house just up the road from Evelyn and her husband Roy, neighbors who never expected the little girl down the street to end up exploring space.

"We were just proud and all the neighbors around here, they just talked and talked," Gholson says.

But Godwin's accomplishments aren't just a source of pride for former neighbors in Jackson. They've also earned her a place on the Missouri Wall of Fame, and have made her a role model for students all across the Heartland.

"I think she does garner a great deal of respect from students who are interested in the program," says Dr. Michael Cobb.

Cobb teaches physics students at Southeast Missouri State, where Godwin once learned physics herself. Now other aspiring astronauts can study in the center named after her, and a few will even get to go watch her blast-off.

"We got invited to go watch her," Cobb says excitedly. "So about fourteen faculty and students are going to take two vans, and leave Wednesday morning around five-thirty to go down to Florida."

Dr. Cobb says he hopes the students will be inspired, not just by the launch, but by what this Heartland native has achieved. "I'd like them to understand that making your dreams come true is possible."

Godwin will be a Mission Specialist on Space Shuttle Mission STS-108. Her duties will include operating the shuttle's giant robot arm, and being the lead space walker.

STS-108 is scheduled for lift-off at 6:44 a.m. Thursday, from Cape Canaveral. The crew will be in space for ten days.