Golden Eagle soaring as pilot of NASA shuttle Atlantis

Golden Eagle soaring as pilot of NASA shuttle Atlantis

Watch video of the Atlantis launch
See Barry Wilmore talk about the determination he learned playing football

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. -- One of the characteristics that Barry Wilmore learned while playing football was "determination" which has also served him well on his way to becoming the current pilot of NASA's Space Shuttle Atlantis, which lifted off Monday.

A former walk-on member of the GOlden Eagle football team, Wilmore became a starter and eventually was inducted into the TTU Sports Hall of Fame. In describing himself as a football player, Wilmore says he was, "small and slow and weak, but I had determination."

The current mission, STS-129, is taking spare parts to the International Space Station. The parts delivered to the space station during the mission will mean spare years on the station’s life once the space shuttle fleet is retired.

With only one U.S. module left to deliver, the Space Shuttle Program is turning its attention to helping the space station build up a store of replacement parts. There are only half a dozen flights left in the shuttle’s manifest before they stop flying, and as the only vehicle large enough to carry many of the big pieces of equipment into space, several of the flights are devoted to the task. This is the first, however, and as the first this mission is dedicated to taking up the spares of the highest priority.

The 11-day mission has Atlantis scheduled to land at Kennedy Space Center on Friday, Nov. 27, at 9:43 a.m. EST.