Astronaut's Stepfather Proud Of Son And The Success Of Discovery's Launch - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Astronaut's Stepfather Proud Of Son And The Success Of Discovery's Launch

The nation watched the Discovery's launch as a united, captive audience.  But, in East Texas, one viewer watched with particular interest.

Kenneth Ruether of Tyler is the stepfather of 51-year-old astronaut Jim Reilly.  Jim was helping with the launch of Discovery in Florida.

"I think number one you are anxious about it, but you're not worried," Kenneth said eyeing the television. "You're concerned but you're not worried."

Then for a split second, Kenneth held his breath as the shuttle launched. The success of Discovery's launch was important not just for NASA, but for Jim's future.

"Jim will be on the fourth mission," Kenneth said. "Three more after this one and he'll be up again." With frequent glances at the screen, Kenneth flipped through a scrap book of Jim's trips to space.

"His mother tells the story about him getting a haircut when he was a little boy and the barber said, 'What do you want to be when you grow up Jimmy?' He said, 'I want to be an astronaut.'"

Jim saw that childhood dream through. In 1998 and 1999, he flew on Endeavor and Atlantis. Then as he was looking forward to his next mission, Columbia broke apart over East Texas.
"Jim was one of many, many people that came to East Texas and scoured the countryside for parts," Kenneth said.

The space program took a hiatus, but Jim's dreams did not. Though he did not fly Tuesday, Kenneth knows Jim is at mission control, making sure the crew of Discovery makes it home safely.

"Thirteen days ago when the shuttle was delayed because of the sensor, he was down at (Cape) Canaveral because we caught him on television as the astronauts were coming out to board the vehicle that takes them to the shuttle."

With the success of the launch, Kenneth said it is certain. Jim will float in space again.

Kenneth Ruether said when Jim Reilly returns to space, he will either dock with the Space Station MIR or help to make repairs on the Hubble telescope.

Maya Golden, reporting,

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