First Houston astronaut blasts off to space

HOUSTON Astronauts Douglas Wheelock and Shannon Walker, and a Russian cosmonaut will stay on the ISS until November. With the shuttle being phased out, the Soyuz rocket will take over as the only means by which astronauts will be able to travel to the space station.

Astronaut Shannon Walker is the first astronaut born and raised in Houston.

A graduate of Westbury Senior High School, Walker received a Bachelor's in Physics as well as a Master's and Doctorate in Space Physics from Rice University. She was selected by NASA to become an astronaut in 2004 following more than a decade of work in the local space industry.

Walker will serve as flight engineer and conduct research on-board the space station during her stay. She says she's looking forward to her six-month stay in orbit.

"Once I'm there, learning how to live and work in space, shuttle missions are pretty short, but long durations of six months you really get a feel for what it's like to live in space," said Walker.

She took some special items with her, including a few things from Rice University, as well as a key to the city of Houston.

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