A piece of history (and research) goes up

Mon, July 11, 2011 — Stephanie Crayton of UNC Health Care's News Team shares her thoughts, in words and video, after witnessing the final launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis. On board the shuttle were a group of 30 mice being sent into space as part of a UNC-led study of an experimental treatment for bone loss.

A piece of history (and research) goes up click to enlarge This image of the final liftoff of the space shuttle program was captured by a member of Dr. Ted Bateman's research team.

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Workers load the mice onto the van that carried them to the space shuttle.
Stephanie Crayton wrote this ...

I have experienced some exciting things in life, but never something of this magnitude. While working with Dr. Ted Bateman, an associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering, he suggested that I fly to Florida to join his team for the final space shuttle launch. As manager of the broadcast program, it made sense to help document this historic moment.

So I flew into Florida two days before launch to observe and film the preparation of the 30 mice that would fly in STS-135. NASA had some pretty strict rules about who could and could not be in or around the lab.  However, I was permitted to observe the ceremonial passing off of the research mice to NASA officials the day before launch.  A group of mostly scientists, and me, packed into a small hallway.  Cameras flashed constantly as three carefully boxed carts were wheeled to a van.  It was as if there were a celebrity sighting.  Now I am not a part of the research team, but I could only imagine what it must have felt like to witness years of hard work drive away to make history.  In the background, I am certain that I heard a few heavy sighs of relief.

Then it was time for the main event. Threat of a tropical depression loomed on the morning of launch but it didn't dampen any spirits.  I joined Dr. Bateman and his lab team members and thousands of others for a walk to the perfect spot for viewing a shuttle launch.  We were two to three miles away.  This was the day we were glad the weather forecasters were wrong.  One of Dr. Bateman's postdoctoral students, Anthony Lau, and I worked out a scheme for filming and taking pictures of what would be seconds of history in the making.  You'll see a number of his photos in the video.  But I hope you will also see the culmination of hard work by scientists at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Colorado, and Harvard University.  Even more, within that massive plume of smoke left behind by the shuttle is a bellow of hope.  Hope for millions of people with osteoporosis. Dr. Bateman's research on bone formation and bone loss may one day make a tremendous difference in their lives. In the meantime, we hope for the safe return of the crew that took history and a piece of research into orbit with them.

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