Thursday, August 9, 2007

Endeavor Astronaut Has Ojai Family

Nancy Radding watches her sister-in-law’s liftoff into space on Wednesday.

By Sondra Murphy
One Ojai family has been watching the space program very closely. Teacher Barbara Morgan, who is part of the Space Shuttle Endeavor crew that launched on Wednesday, is the sister of Howard Radding, a valley dentist for 20 years.
Morgan originally trained with NASA in the 80s when the agency was recruiting teachers, and she was backup for Christa McAuliffe in the 1986 Challenger mission. After the Challenger exploded, the Radding family was relieved that Morgan was not chosen for that flight, but disappointed when the civilian program was scrapped. Morgan’s getting a second chance to go into space has recharged the family with enthusiasm for the program.
Nancy Radding, wife of Howard and sister-in-law of Morgan, watched the Endeavor’s launch on television from her Ojai home on Wednesday. Her husband was accompanied to Florida by his daughters, Ava and Lauren, to witness Morgan and the shuttle crew launch into space. Other members of Morgan’s family met in Florida for the big event.
“The kids got to go to space camp and were given the whole VIP treatment,” Nancy Radding told OVN as she waited for the launch Wednesday. Radding noted how the news coverage is focused on Morgan. “She’s the big dog of this gig,” Radding said. At age 55, Morgan is the oldest person to go into space on a first mission. She retired from teaching to train with NASA and became a full-fledged astronaut in 1998.
Radding’s husband called several times with updates as NASA prepared for liftoff. “Howard said they basically put them in diapers before the launch,” said Radding. “He also said that, with pre-flight jitters, somebody already tossed their cookies.”
The Radding family hails from Fresno, but is now scattered about the western United States, so the Endeavor launch served as a type of family reunion for them. “When you don’t live in the same town, you sometimes get more involved with your friends than with your family,” Radding observed. “With their family all going to this, they’ve gotten caught up in the potency of the experience.” She said the family got a little choked up as they bid farewell to Morgan.
As the countdown progressed and the shuttle lifted, Radding also got caught up in the experience. “Gosh, my heart’s racing. Who’d have thought I’d be so excited?” At each successful step in the shuttle’s separation from its launch equipment, Radding celebrated.
“I told my husband that the biggest link I ever had with space travel was David Bowie,” Radding laughed. When Howard Radding called from Cape Canaveral a few minutes later, she put her ear to the phone. “You can hear everybody just screaming there,” she shared and then spoke into the mouthpiece, “Ground control to Major Tom.”
The Endeavor is expected to dock at the international space station Friday and will stay 11 to 14 days, depending on how long it takes the crew to complete its tasks of delivering a new truss segment and attaching a replacement gyroscope. Morgan has a specific job on the station. “She’s the robotic arm operator,” said Radding. Morgan will also teach two live lessons to students in Idaho and take a space walk or two during the mission.

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