Magnus’ opus


Sandra Magnus, Missouri S&T alumna, suits up for space. Photo credit: NASA

UPDATE: Dr. Magnus and crew glided to a landing at the Kennedy Space Center early the morning of Thursday, July 21, safely back to Earth from the International Space Station, ending the U.S. shuttle program.

The last space shuttle flight launched July 8, and a Missouri S&T grad is an important part of the mission. “It only takes about 8.5 minutes to get into our initial orbit,” says NASA Astronaut Sandra Magnus. “But it’s an exciting 8.5 minutes!”
Magnus and three other astronauts are aboard Atlantis for the historic flight. They are the final four astronauts to orbit in a space shuttle.


Photographs of the July 8, 2011 NASA STS-135 launch – the final mission of the space shuttle – taken by Dr. Kelvin T. Erickson, department chair and professor of electrical and computer engineering at Missouri S&T.

The mission
The mission is scheduled to last 12 days. Magnus and the other astronauts are delivering supplies to the International Space Station and testing new methods for recycling used water, among other things.

At S&T, where she played soccer, Magnus earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1986 and a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1990. She also holds a doctorate from Georgia Tech.

Magnus was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1996. She flew her first mission in 2002. A native of Belleville, Ill., she recently told the local newspaper: “Atlantis was the first one I ever flew on, and now it will be my last mission as well. So it holds a special place in my heart.’

The other vehicles in NASA’s shuttle program, which is being discontinued after 30 years, have already been retired. The crew of the last mission is being limited to four people, instead of the usual six astronauts, because if something goes wrong, Russian crews will eventually have to bring them back to Earth from the ISS.

Space station experiences

In 2008-2009, Magnus spent more than four months at the space station, traveling 50,304,000 miles. While living on the ISS, she blogged for Missouri S&T. In addition to addressing various issues about life in orbit, she answered questions posed by grade school kids on the blog. Among the issues that came up were:

  • Showering in space
  • How to drink coffee in space
  • Zen and the art of space cooking
  • Experimenting with fire

Hair and zero-gravity
Magnus is somewhat famous for her hair, which, when unencumbered, floats impressively in zero-gravity. During a 2009 phone call to the ISS, President Obama asked her if she had ever thought of getting it cut. When Magnus said no, Obama replied that it was “quite a fashion statement.”


Mangus (and her hair) float in zero-gravity. Photo provided

By Lance Feyh


  1. ^That was a gr8 discussion to listen to 🙂 Bon Voyage!

  2. So, just how many UMR-MoS&T graduates have been on one of the Space Shuttles?

  3. The have been 3 Miners on the Sspace Shuttle; Tom Akers; Janet Kavandi, and Sandra Magnus.

  4. Milton J Murry 1964 1980 BSEE MSEE says

    God Speed. We are looking up to you. Sorry this is the last mission. Hope all goes well and mission is accomplished. The University has contributed greatly to improving both the Planet Earth and space around it. All Alumni are very proud of your accomplishments and the improvements, small and large, we continue to deliver.