Texas student enjoys working on shuttle engines

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Justin Junell has one of the hottest co-op jobs at Kettering University.

A senior from Fredericksburg, Texas, he has to stand at least a quarter-mile away when the rocket engines he works on for NASA undergo testing in a reddish blaze of fire, smoke and awesome power. Junell works at NASA's Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi.

He ended up with one of the coveted co-op jobs at NASA because of the professional contacts he made while still in high school. Junell is part of a growing list of graduates from Fredericksburg High School inspired by a great science teacher and supported by a growing group of mentors. Ernie Platfoot '50 of Willow City, Texas, is among the coalition of supporters now helping Fredericksburg High School teacher Brett Williams create a hands-on aeroscience program.

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"I want to be an astronaut," Junell said. "The astronaut program appeals to me because it is demanding. I know it requires a lot of work, but to see the curvature of the Earth from 250 miles would be & so cool, I don't know how to describe it. I have met astronauts who start crying when they talk about seeing the Earth from orbit. I really want to experience that kind of emotion."

Junell is an applied physics major at Kettering, with concentrations in acoustics and optics. He is gleeful when talking about engine power with automotive engineers. "Just one of the space shuttle engines produces nearly half a million pounds of thrust," he said. "We test the shuttle engines one at a time for eight minutes at a quarter-mile away. When they start, the ground shakes and you can feel it in your chest. So with that kind of engine power, we like to think we're one step above the car guys."


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One of Flint's native sons -- Lt. Col. Michael J. Bloomfield -- will return to Mid-Michigan when he visits Kettering University on Monday, Oct. 27. Details of his visit are still pending, but the space shuttle pilot is scheduled to address students and answer questions during his visit to Kettering.

Bloomfield was born in Flint on March 16, 1959, and graduated from Lake Fenton High School in 1977. His parents, Rodger and Maxine Bloomfield, reside in Linden, Mich. He graduated from the United States Air Force Academy in 1981 and completed undergraduate pilot training at Vance Air Force Base in Oklahoma in 1983.

In 1994, he was selected by NASA and reported to the Johnson Space Center in 1995. He is a qualified space shuttle pilot. He is a veteran of three space flights and has logged more than 750 hours in space. His space flight experiences include flights on the Atlantis in 1997, the Endeavour in 2000, and the Atlantis in 2002 and missions to the International Space Station. He is currently a shuttle commander for NASA.

More details will follow on the visit of Lt. Col. Michael J. Bloomfield to Kettering University.

Want to see where the International Space Station is today? Visit NASA at: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov and also go to the bottom right and click on the zoom buttons.

For some good information on latitude, longitude and altitude: visit NASA at: http://science.nasa.gov

Written by Patricia Mroczek
(810) 762-9533