HOUSTON – A month after returning from space, NASA astronauts Joan Higginbotham, a Chicago native, and Bill Oefelein, an Alaska native, are available for satellite interviews.

Higginbotham is available Thursday, Jan. 25 from 6 to 8 a.m. CST. Oefelein is available Friday, Jan. 26 from 3 to 5 p.m. To participate in the interviews, media should contact the NASA Johnson Space Center newsroom in Houston at 281-483-5111 by Wednesday, Jan. 24 at 4 p.m.

Higginbotham and Oefelein made their first spaceflight aboard Discovery in December 2006 on STS-116, a 13-day mission to the International Space Station to rearrange the complex’s power and cooling systems. During the flight, Higginbotham operated the station’s robotic arm and coordinated cargo transfers between the shuttle and the station. Oefelein was Discovery’s pilot and coordinated four spacewalks from inside the station and shuttle.

The mission brought online electricity generated by a second giant set of solar panels added to the station during a September 2006 shuttle flight. The changes almost doubled the electrical power available to the station. Shuttle Discovery also carried a new crew member, Suni Williams, to the station to begin a six-month stay. European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Reiter, who had been in orbit since July, returned to Earth aboard Discovery.

Higginbotham was born and raised in Chicago and received a bachelor’s degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Ill. She also has two master’s degrees from the Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Fla. Before her selection as an astronaut in 1996, Higginbotham spent nine years working at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, Fla., overseeing various stages of shuttle launch preparation.

Oefelein, a U.S. Navy commander, considers Anchorage, Alaska, his hometown. He credits his youth in Alaska with helping foster his interest in flying. While there, he obtained a private pilot’s license with a float plane rating. He attended the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, also known as TOPGUN, and became a Navy fighter and test pilot. Oefelein has logged more than 3,000 hours in 50 different types of aircraft.

Oefelein received a bachelor’s from Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore., and a master’s from the University of Tennessee Space Institute, Knoxville, Tenn.

Higginbotham and Oefelein were joined aboard Discovery by STS-116 Commander Mark Polansky and mission specialists Bob Curbeam, Nicholas Patrick, Williams and Christer Fuglesang, a European Space Agency astronaut.

For Higginbotham’s biographical information, visit:


For Oefelein’s biographical information, visit:


The interviews will be carried live on the NASA TV analog satellite AMC-6, at 72 degrees west longitude; transponder 5C, 3800 MHz, vertical polarization, with audio at 6.8 MHz. B-roll video of Higginbotham’s training for the mission will air at 5:30 a.m. CST. For NASA TV downlink, schedules and streaming video information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/ntv For more information about STS-116 and its crew, visit: