Alumni Profile

Space: Jerry Linenger and Carlos Noriega

One Small Step for Trojans Among the many USC traditions of excellence is a Trojan presence in the U.S. space program. The first person to set foot on the moon was, after all, alumnus Neil Alden Armstrong. And numerous other members of the Trojan family over the years have made contributions to the final frontier as well.

THIS TRADITION IS being carried on in the program’s current era by a couple of alums who clearly have the right stuff. Jerry Linenger, a 1988 master’s graduate of USC’s Institute of Safety and Systems Management, is now aboard Russia’s Mir Space Station for a stay of several months. When his mission on the Mir ends in May, one of the astronauts aboard the U.S. Space Shuttle picking Linenger up to return him to Earth will be Carlos Noriega, who received his B.S. in computer science from USC in 1981.
The linkup is a stepping stone to building and occupying a larger space station, which several countries will help construct beginning later this year or early in 1998. That international station, in turn, is considered a major step toward astronaut exploration of the Moon and planets, especially Mars.
Linenger, who last month lifted off on the U.S. Space Shuttle Atlantis and then boarded Mir some 250 miles above the Earth, is the fourth American to live on the 100-ton, 100-foot-long craft, which has been in space for almost 10 years. Their flights mark the first orbital exchange of Americans on long-duration missions.
Understandably, Linenger has been unreachable for comment. With his vast experience, he’s busy continuing work he began on a Space Shuttle Discovery mission he flew in 1994, when he used lasers for environmental research. During that mission, Linenger logged almost 11 days in space and traveled over 4.5 million miles – figures that now pale to the four months he’s spending on Mir. His 1994 mission also included the first untethered spacewalk – to test a self-rescue jetpack – in 10 years.

FOR CARLOS NORIEGA his trip to pick up fellow Trojan Linenger will be his first space venture. While a student at USC, becoming an astronaut was only a “distant dream” to Noriega.
“Other ‘special’ people had that in their future,” he explains. “I was just interested in becoming a good Marine Corps officer after graduation.”
As a mission specialist, Noriega will be the flight engineer during Atlantis’s accent and entry. “I’ll work closely with the commander and pilot on nominal and emergency procedures,” he says, “ensuring that the correct checklists are properly executed in a timely manner.” In orbit, Noriega’s days will be filled with a variety of responsibilities, including serving as crew medical officer and conducting some small experiments.

BOTH MEN JOINED the NASA ranks through their service in the military. Linenger, who in addition to his M.S. from USC has an M.D. from Wayne State (1981) and a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina (1989), is a captain in the Navy’s Medical Corps.
Noriega, a major in the USMC, was serving on the staff of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in Okinawa, Japan, at the time of his selection. He has logged 2,000-plus flight hours in various aircraft.
“But preparing for a space flight is even more challenging and fun,” points out Noriega. “We’re now well into our mission-specific training and it’s great to see how a team begins to click.”

THREE MORE SHUTTLE-MIR linkups are planned through 1998 as the U.S. and Russia, once enemies, gear up to build the International Space Station. Canada, Germany, France, and Japan are among the nations also participating.
Linenger and Noriega, and maybe as-yet unknown up-and-coming Trojan astronauts, might be part of that future history.
“Right now I’m concentrating on my current mission,” says Noriega, “but I’d like to fly several more over the next few years.”
And speaking perhaps for Linenger as well, he adds, “Hopefully, this will include an extended stay on the international station.”

Jerry Linenger
Carlos Noriega

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Space: Jerry Linenger and Carlos Noriega

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Photographs courtesy of NASA

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