Originally created 10/25/98

Augusta's Still to guide astronauts into orbit



When John Glenn returns to space Thursday, Augusta's Susan Still will help his crew get there and back home safely.

Lt. Cmdr. Still, who has piloted the space shuttle twice, is the CAPCOM -- or capsule communicator -- for the flight.

Stationed at mission control in Houston, she will serve as liaison between astronauts and NASA flight directors during launch and landing.

"We're kind of an interpreter," Lt. Cmdr. Still said.

When Mr. Glenn first voyaged to space in 1962, the CAPCOM's voice was the last one he heard before liftoff. Fellow Mercury Scott Carpenter spoke for the nation with his three-word wish -- "Godspeed, John Glenn."

Don't expect Lt. Cmdr. Still to repeat those words this time around. She doesn't have any communication with the shuttle until after liftoff, so the goodwill message will come from somebody at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

Listen for Lt. Cmdr. Still's voice shortly after liftoff, when the shuttle makes its 180-degree roll.

Lt. Cmdr. Still will be communicating with the pilot and commander, leading them through the steps to take the shuttle into orbit. Most of what she says is scripted.

At the end of the mission, Lt. Cmdr. Still will again take the microphone to guide the shuttle to a safe landing.

"The only time I say anything that's not written down or given to me in advance is when I get to welcome them home after landing," she said last week in a telephone interview from Houston.

What will she say to the Discovery crew?

"I'll make it up then," she said.

Launch abbreviations

Here are some abbreviations you might hear during Thursday's Discovery launch, when John Glenn returns to space:

SRBs: solid rocket boosters

APU: auxiliary power unit

ET: external tank

MECO: main engine cutoff

GLS: ground launch sequencer

MS: mission specialist

RTLS abort: return to landing site abort

ATO: abort to orbit

AOA: abort once around (the Earth)

CAPCOM: capsule communicator

STS: space transportation system

BFS: backup flight system

OMS: orbital maneuvering system

SSME: space shuttle main engines

GPC: general purpose computers

MEC: main engine controller

IEA: integrated electronic assembly

MLS: microwave landing system

VFR: visual flight rules

TACAN: tactical air command and navigation system

TAL: transatlantic landing

OV-103: orbital vehicle 103 (another name for shuttle Discovery)

Source: National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Amy Joyner can be reached at (706) 823-3339 or ajoyner@augustachronicle.com.