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Thursday, January 18, 2001

Isle woman waits
to watch son pilot
space shuttle

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Among those disappointed by postponement of this week's launch of the space shuttle Atlantis was a large contingent from Hawaii who had made a special trip to Florida.

The reason they made the trip is that the mother of one of Atlantis' crew of five -- Edith Choo Polansky -- is from the islands. Her son, Mark Polansky, 44, is the pilot of the space shuttle.

Edith Polansky said she spent most of Tuesday with her son before he flew back to the Houston Space Center.

"He took me to the launch pad and I was nose-to-nose with the space shuttle," she said. "He's in good spirits and he knows he has to be flexible with anything to do with a launch. It's better to be safe."

It will be his job, she said, to deliver the space laboratory Destiny to the international space station.

Edith Polansky said there was supposed to be a large contingent of family and friends from Hawaii, England, Australia and the mainland at Cape Canaveral.

Helen Ladd Thompson who flew to Florida to be the special guest of astronaut Polansky, has known Edith Polansky since they were in high school.

Thompson is a 1944 graduate of Punahou School; Choo graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1941.

"We have been good dear friends since high-school days," said Thompson, who worked for Alexander & Baldwin for 42 years before she retired.

"I met her son Mark when he was a youngster," added Thompson in a phone interview from Cape Canaveral. "When he came to Hawaii for a visit he was already dreaming of being an astronaut. It's such a heartwarming story that his dreams have now come true."

But NASA on Monday decided to delay Friday's launch to allow for additional booster inspections.

The space agency now predicts the launch will be no earlier than Feb. 6.

Thompson doesn't think she can afford to make a second trip to Florida.

"I just wanted to see the space shuttle launch. It would have been the greatest thrill of my life."

Mark Polansky was born in Paterson, N.J., and received both his bachelor and master of science degrees in aeronautics astronautics from Purdue University. Upon graduation from Purdue he earned his pilot wings in the Air Force.

He logged more than 5,000 flight hours in 30 different aircraft in the Air Force. He joined NASA in 1992, and was selected as an astronaut in 1996.

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