As Andy prepares for another mission...
University of Adelaide engineering graduate Dr Andy Thomas is currently preparing for his latest voyage to space.
Dr Thomas will be a mission specialist, joining six other crew members aboard the NASA space shuttle Discovery. Discovery will be the first shuttle to return to space since the Columbia disaster in 2003, with an expected launch in either May or June this year.
Dr Thomas was a late addition to the crew, and brings with him experience from three previous shuttle missions as well as a long stint in orbit aboard the Russian Mir space station.
In an interview on NASA's website, Dr Thomas said a "positive legacy" had to come out of the Columbia accident, and his assignment to the Discovery crew was an "unexpected privilege".
"I don't know of any [astronauts] that would say that their passion for human space flight has in any way been diminished by [the Columbia] accident. It's perhaps given us a sense of resolve, more than anything else, to continue," he said.
Dr Thomas repeated earlier calls for Australians to get involved in space flight, saying: "the resolve of people... has not been diminished in Australia for human space flight, and there is a growing group of people - young people, mostly - who really believe that Australia should become involved in space exploration; that it's actually in Australia's long-term best interest to do that".
"And I hope that those young people and other people in Australia will look at my role on this flight that, although I'm not formally representing the country, it does show what can be done and that it might inspire others, a new generation in Australia, to step up to the challenges of human space exploration."
For the full interview with Dr Thomas, and updates on his shuttle mission, visit the NASA website: http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/home/index.html
...Andy Thomas scholar launches into study
Simon Uppill has gone from constructing intricate paper planes as a boy to being the Andy Thomas Scholar for 2005.
The 17-year-old was recently announced as the latest winner of the prestigious scholarship, which is awarded for academic excellence to a new student undertaking Mechanical, Mechatronic or Aerospace Engineering. Other criteria include leadership qualities, career aspirations and involvement in the community.
It is named after one of the university's most prominent graduates, NASA astronaut Dr Andy Thomas. The scholarship pays for all tuition fees and provides the recipient with an annual allowance of $5000.
Simon went to Hawthordene Primary School and Blackwood High School, where last year he obtained a Tertiary Entrance Ranking (TER) of 99.95. He was also awarded the Campbell Award for the best-performed Year 12 student at a South Australian public school, and the OneSteel Award for the best-performed student in Physics, Maths and Chemistry.
He will now use the scholarship to study for a double degree in Mechatronic Engineering and Maths & Computer Science at the University of Adelaide.
"When I was a bit younger I did have an interest in flight and space, but I never wanted to be an astronaut or anything like that - it was more the idea of flight itself that interested me," he said.
"I used to make these complicated paper planes when I was seven or eight which I used to enjoy seeing fly, but now I'm more interested in the mechatronic engineering field and using computers."
Simon is also a talented athlete, and is currently the Australian champion for his age group in orienteering - a sport he enjoys because it tests him physically and mentally.
"It's more than being able run fast, and it's more than being able to read a map and navigate your way around an unknown area safely and quickly - it's a combination of both," he said.
Simon is among the thousands of new students studying at the University of Adelaide this year.
Story by Ben Osborne