Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WWII Medals Return to Earth in Time for Veterans' Day

Astronaut Reid Wiseman tweets from space | Video
Photograph of Ralph Sweitzer's Purple Heart and
Bronze Star medals from World War II, which
flew with his great-nephew, NASA Astronaut Reid
Wiseman, on the International Space Station.
(Image Source: E.W. Scripps Co.)

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Just in time for Veterans' Day, two World War II medals returned to Earth yesterday from spending several months on the International Space Station. The medals belong to 94-year-old Ralph Sweitzer of Vero Beach, Florida and were included in the small box of possessions taken aboard the Space Station by Mr. Sweitzer's great-nephew, NASA Astronaut G. Reid Wiseman.

U.S. Navy Commander Wiseman, Flight Engineer for Space Station Expedition 41, returned to Kazakhstan yesterday at 9:58 a.m. (Nov. 9, 10:58 p.m. EST / Nov. 10, 3:58 UTC) along with Expedition 41 Commander Max Suraev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency.

Back in May, just before Commander Wiseman prepared for launch to the Space Station, he asked his great-uncle, Ralph Sweitzer, to allow him to take two of Mr. Sweitzer's several World War II medals into outer space: Mr. Sweitzer's Purple Heart and Bronze Star.

Mr. Sweitzer fought in the Battle of the Bulge in Germany in 1945, near the end of the War. Mr. Sweitzer and two other soldiers were pinned-down in a fox-hole, enduring German bombing. Mr. Sweitzer was the only one who survived the ordeal, but he was badly injured.

During Commander Wiseman's time on the Space Station, he and the other crew members participated in research focusing on Earth remote sensing, advance manufacturing, and bone and muscle physiology studies. Human health management for long duration space travel was a key focus, as NASA and Russia prepare for two astronauts to spend an entire year on the Space Station beginning in 2015.

Commander Wiseman took two spacewalks outside of the Space Station. The first, with Mr. Gerst, was to relocate a failed pump module and configure the station for upcoming additions. The second spacewalk was completed with fellow NASA Astronaut Barry Wilmore.

During the mission on the Space Station, Commander Wiseman became well known to followers of social media for his many Twitter posts and his many photographs taken of Earth and celestial objects.

This was the first flight in space for Commander Wiseman, who received a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer and Systems Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1997 and a Master of Science degree in Systems Engineering from Johns Hopkins University in 2006.

More about Commander Wiseman: Link >>> http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/wiseman.html

Source: Glenn A. Walsh, Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.

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