November 23, 2014

Elyria
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Brave new Endeavour

North Ridgeville grad now piloting space shuttle

Hobaugh now.

Pioneers of space exploration John Glenn and Neil Armstrong both called Ohio home, but now a North Ridgeville High School graduate is the one putting Ohio — and Lorain County — in the spotlight.

Astronaut Charles Hobaugh, who graduated from North Ridgeville High School in 1980, is one of seven crew members aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, which went into orbit at 6:36 p.m. Wednesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The crew is expected to reach the international space station today.

Although Hobaugh has called many places in America home, he has not forgotten his high school.

“He came and spoke to the school in 2002,” said Patricia Bahr, principal at North Ridgeville. “He gave us a pictogram with a U.S. flag and his crew patch.”

Hobaugh has since been inducted into the school’s academic hall of fame.

Next to his picture in the yearbook, Hobaugh lists being a military pilot as his life’s aspiration. Since graduating he has worked as a military pilot and was a test pilot when NASA accepted him in 1996. 

“Flying is just something he was meant to do,” said Brian Shafranek, a childhood friend who went to high school in Sheffield Lake and now lives in Pittsburgh. “He’s had his pilot’s license since he was in his early teens. He wanted to fly jets, now he’s flying the ultimate jet.”

Hobaugh is one of two astronauts aboard Endeavour who know firsthand the danger that can come with being a NASA space crew member.

Hobaugh was working at mission control in Houston when the space shuttle Columbia broke up over Texas in 2003, killing all seven crew members.

“Columbia, Houston, comm check” were the last words Hobaugh would ever say to the Columbia crew, according to a transcript of communications between the ground and the doomed shuttle.

Barbara Morgan, a teacher-astronaut on board the Endeavour, was the backup astronaut for Christa McAuliffe, who was a crew member aboard the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded 73 seconds into its flight in 1986. Morgan is the first teacher to fly a NASA mission since the Challenger exploded.

The transmission from Mission Control said Morgan was “racing toward space on the wings of a legacy.”

With the tragedies behind them, both astronauts are now aboard the Endeavour as it rockets toward the international space station.  Hobaugh will pilot the shuttle to the station, where the crew will deliver a truss segment, part of the continuing construction of the station.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.