Loyola University Maryland alumnus Timothy J. "T.J." Creamer, '82, a U.S. Army Colonel and mission specialist with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), took off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan on Dec. 20 for a six-month mission to the International Space Station.
Creamer, a chemistry major and graduate of Loyola's Reserve Officer Training Corps; a Russian cosmonaut; and a Japanese astronaut will join the U.S. astronaut and Russian cosmonaut already onboard the station. A flight engineer and science officer, Creamer will participate in a wide range of projects, from maintenance and cleaning to performing a series of experiments on topics including materials science and metabolics. In addition, the crew will install a new, larger window, called the cupola, on the station's port side facing the Earth, an added element which Creamer says will "offer unparalleled views of the Earth."
This mission, Creamer's first spaceflight, follows more than 10 years of dedicated training and preparation. After graduating from Loyola and receiving his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Army, Creamer spent seven years as an Army helicopter pilot. He later completed a master's degree in physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and went on to teach physics at the United States Military Academy at West Point. Assigned to NASA as a vehicle integration test engineer in 1995, he was accepted into the astronaut program in 1998.
"Once you're selected, you move through a lengthy maturation process before you're ready for a spaceflight," says Creamer. "There is just so much to master that's specific to spacecraft systems."
Creamer's wait ended up a bit longer than most. He originally trained for space shuttle missions, all of which were grounded after the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003. He later switched to the long-duration program that encompasses missions to the International Space Station. As he trained, he continued to provide technical support for the space program, including working on the design of the computer network currently in use at the space station.
Creamer credits the Jesuit education he received at Loyola and in particular, his relationship with physics professor Rev. Frank Haig, S.J., with inspiring a quest for knowledge that has fueled his remarkable career. "The Jesuit foundation of questioning has led me throughout my career to experience many strange and wonderful things," said Creamer. "Those Jesuits who taught us and mentored us, inspired us with awe and a spirit of inquiry that drives us to try to understand all we can about the natural environment and our world."
Creamer, who has a wife, Margaret, and two teenage sons at his home in Texas, will be able to video conference with them from space and plans to send updates via Twitter. He is also traveling with several pieces of Loyola memorabilia he plans to photograph at the space station.
For more information on the International Space Station and Creamer's mission, visit www.nasa.gov/station.
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