Ohio Astronaut Prepares for Mission Aboard ISS

By Shirley Tracy

Lieutenant Colonel Carl E. Walz of the United States Air Force, and a native of South Euclid, Ohio, has been chosen to serve on the fourth crew of the new International Space Station. The project is a joint venture of the United States, Russia, member nations of the European Space Agency, Canada and Japan. Now in Russia, Colonel Walz recently trained at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. He is in training for his part in the mission and is scheduled to lift off in January 2000. Also on the fourth crew will be Commander Daniel Bursch of the US Navy and cosmonaut Yuri Onufrienko of Russia. Raised Christian, Walz says he has known Jesus all his life, but from high above the earth, he has become more keenly aware of Creation and its Creator. "From two hundred fifty miles up," he explains, "you can really see the details of the landscape, the mountains, the rivers, the lakes, the islands, and all the many different colors of the ocean. There's the beauty of the weather, the clouds, the sunrises and sunsets. It's just extraordinary to look at all that beauty."

Because it takes about ninety minutes for one earth orbit, Waltz says they may get to see as many as sixteen sunrises in a day, and each one is different. According to him a number of astronauts believe in Jesus Christ, struck by the awesome grandeur of His Creation. Walz is convinced that their departure from and safe return to earth so many times definitely points to God's providence. "I feel that when I'm sitting on the launch-pad, all strapped in and ready to go, God is with us. He'll take care of us and, more importantly, our families."

From childhood, young Carl wanted to become an astronaut. He gazed in wonder at the night sky, curious to know what was out there. At school he shared in the excitement over early pioneer space exploration, and he was encouraged by a number of astronauts from Ohio, including John Glenn. Walz graduated from Brush High School in 1973. He received a bachelor of science degree in physics from Kent State University in 1977 (graduating Summa Cum Laude) and earned a master of science in solid state physics from John Carroll University in 1979. Until 1982, Walz was a Radiochemical Project Officer. The next year he studied as a Flight Test Engineer at the USAF Test Pilot School at Edwards Air Force Base. From early 1984 to June of 1987, his assignment was Flight Test Engineer to the F-16 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base. He was selected for the astronaut program in 1990 and has three space flights under his belt. On his last flight, he spent five days on Mir, the Russian space station, where he did some scientific experiments and filmed for the new IMAX presentation, "Mission to Mir." This next will be his longest mission, tentatively four months. He has plans to take along a copy of Connection Magazine for this trip and it looks like he should have plenty of time to read it.

Colonel Walz has earned many special honors and awards. Among them are his induction into the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame, three NASA Space Flight Medals, and the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. In spite of his accomplishments, however, he is soft-spoken and unpretentious. Family is a top priority for this astronaut. He and his wife Pamela have two children. In addition, both still have family in the Cleveland area and return frequently. "I love Cleveland," he offers enthusiastically. "It's my home."  Walz enjoys sports, photography, and music. In fact, music is an important part of his life. He plays piano at his church and is lead singer for the Max Q, a small group of astronauts who play primarily for astronaut office functions and other functions around the Johnson Space Center. They perform easy rock, mostly the kind of music from the seventies and eighties, as well as some Elvis. Walz also plays a little saxophone.

A big fan of inspirational singer Twila Paris, Walz listens to her music often, even up in space. "There's a song for every situation," Walz declares. "It seems like she has written all of them with my life in mind, to change the focus from what's wrong to what's right, and there's a lot that's always right."   
He was delighted when Twila was able to adjust her tour schedule so she could be in Florida to attend his second shuttle launch. It was on that same flight that Walz and another astronaut took communion in space. They held a regular communion service, read from their Bibles and prayed together.
Plans for the International Space Station have been several years in the making. Most of it has already been completed here on the ground, and sections will be carried up in stages and assembled in space, beginning this year. In all, it will take 51 flights: 30 shuttle flights, 11 Russian Soyuz flights, and 10 unmanned flights. The station will weigh 900,000 pounds when finished. Assembly should be complete by the year 2002. It will be 300 feet wide and about 200 feet long (bigger than a football field. and roughly three times larger than the Mir Space Station). Colonel Walz is living out his dreams. He looks at every space mission as a wonderful opportunity. But no matter where his travels take him, across the globe or above it, he is confident that God is always there. John 3:3.