Watch CBSN Live

The Atlantis Crew

This mission to the International Space Station has a crew of seven.

There are five Americans: Commander Terry Wilcutt, Pilot Scott Altman, Mission Specialist Dan Burbank, Mission Specialist Ed Lu and Mission Specialist Rick Mastracchio.

There are two Russians: Mission Specialist Yuri Malenchenko and Mission Specialist Boris Morukov.

Commander Terrence Wilcutt has already flown to a space station twice. But this will be his first visit to the U.S.-led international space station.

"I know I went to Mir twice, but that was already established. It was nice seeing a space station, but it's something else to be part of building the new one," he says.

Trending News

Wilcutt, 50, a Marine colonel from Russellville, Ky., started out as a high school mathematics teacher in the mid-1970s, but quit after two years because of low pay and a desire to fly. He joined the Marines and became a naval aviator and test pilot. NASA chose him as an astronaut in 1990.

This is his fourth space flight.

Pilot Scott Altman says flying combat is a lot like flying into space.

"They're both events that you want to be very well prepared for prior to the time that you actually get into the vehicle and take off," says the former F-14 Navy pilot whose precision flying was featured in the 1986 film "Top Gun."

The 41-year-old Navy commander from Pekin, Ill., had just returned from a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf when NASA chose him as an astronaut in 1994. He received the Navy Air Medal for his role as a strike leader flying over southern Iraq.

This is his second space shuttle flight.

"I grew up wanting to be a pilot," he says. "To be honest, I probably grew up wanting to be a World War II fighter pilot."

Rick Mastracchio says it wasn't hard convincing his wife that he should quit Mission Control and become an astronaut. His mom was another matter.

"My mother, she keeps telling me, 'Is this really something you want to do?' " says the space rookie. "Even up to the last day, I'm sure she's going to tell me, 'You didn't change your mind?' Of course not."

Mastracchio, 40, started out as an engineer with Hamilton Standard in Connecticut. He switched companies in 1987 and moved to Houston to work at the Johnson Space Center. He joined NASA in 1990 and eventually became a flight controller. NASA picked him as an astronaut in 1996.

Mastracchio, who's from Waterbury, Conn., will operate the shuttle robot arm during a spacewalk by two others, and unload space station supplies from the shuttle. He is also the flight engineer.

Edward Lu grew up in Webster, N.Y., wanting to be a scientist or an engineer like his dad. He also wanted to fly.

"It was sort of an afterthought coming here," says the two-time space flier.

Besides installing equipment inside the new control module, Zvezda, u will venture outside to hook up power and data cables. At one point, he'll be an incredible 110 feet from the shuttle.

He plans to follow the advice of his more experienced spacewalking partner: "Just take it easy, just be nice and calm."

"Heights don't bother me too bad," he jokes.

Lu, 37, a physicist and rated pilot, worked at astronomical institutes in Colorado and Hawaii before being named an astronaut in 1994. He is an expert in solar flares.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Burbank was flying a rescue helicopter that harrowing night depicted in the summer film "The Perfect Storm."

He searched the churning Atlantic for a man who was missing from a helicopter that ditched into the sea. The rest of the crew was rescued by the Coast Guard cutter Tamaroa. But the man was never found.

Flying in space is less risky, Burbank says, than flying Coast Guard missions in extreme weather like that 1991 nor'easter. The wind registered 80 mph on his helicopter displays that night, with gusts of 115 mph.

"The space shuttle's been flying for many years now, very safely and very effectively," he says. "I don't worry about it too much."

Burbank, 39, an engineer from Tolland, Conn., is making his first space flight. He was chosen as an astronaut in 1996.

He is in charge of all cargo transfers into the space station.

Russian cosmonaut Yuri Malenchenko has always been in charge every time he's flown. Until now. The Russian Air Force colonel is relegated to the back of the shuttle, but that's all right with him.

"I don't have any discomfort associated with the fact that I'm not going to be the one who will be flying the vehicle," he says. "There's also an advantage. ... I'll be able to dedicate more time to outfitting on the international space station."

Malenchenko, 38, a cosmonaut since 1987, spent four months on Mir in 1994 as commander. He conducted two spacewalks on that mission.

On this flight, he'll take another spacewalk and help install Russian equipment inside the space station's new control module, Zvezda.

Dr. Boris Morukov may be just another delivery man on this mission, but he's actually an expert in aerospace medicine.

"A doctor in space should be able to do whatever the other people are doing as well," he says with a smile. "That's the American way."

Morukov, 49, joined the Institute for Biomedical Problems in Moscow in 1978 and, as a researcher, provided medical support for cosmonauts in orbit. He was chosen as a cosmonaut in 1989 and was the backup for Dr. Valery Polyakov, whose 14-1/2-month Mir mission in 1994 and 1995 set an endurance record.

On this, his first space flight, Morukov will unload the Russian cargo ship that's already docked to the space station and help install some of the equipment.

© 2000 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

View CBS News In