Lee Joseph Archambault will be at the helm for many parts of the 15-day mission, which will deliver and install new solar-power arrays to the International Space Station.
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Archambault grew up in Bellwood, Ill., just outside Chicago. That's also the home of astronaut Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon. Living in a town that idolized Cernan did a lot to inspire Archambault, ultimately leading him to the dream of going into space himself.
A graduate of Proviso West High School and the University of Illinois, Archambault joined the Air Force and flew stealth fighter missions in the 1991 Gulf War. He went on to become a test pilot for many years, until he got a call from NASA in 1998.
"I was out at the barbershop getting a haircut -- I came home and my wife told me that NASA called. I said, 'OK, this could be interesting,'" Archambault said in a pre-flight interview.
He was also away from home when he got the call for his first space mission. Archambault said there seems to be a trend that his wife always answers the big, career-changing phone calls.
"Usually, it happens when I’m out of town for, for some reason, but it’s always good news when I get that message," he said.
This week's mission will be Archambault's second time in space. He was also aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis' two-week mission in 2007. The Discovery mission will essentially double the power of the Space Station, making room for two new science facilities.
Archambault said he's getting more and more excited about this week's mission -- and for space exploration in general.
"We’re going to go back to the moon. We’re going to use what we learn when we go back to the moon, and how to live on the moon for an extended period of time, and we’re going to go to Mars and we’re going to live on Mars, and then that’ll set the stage for who knows going even beyond Mars," he said.