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[i]Today was the formal tree planting ceremony for my (STS-131) Shuttle Commander Alan "Dex" Poindexter at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. Any time an astronaut passes - Dex died unexpectedly while enjoying jet ski time with his two sons in Pensacola not quite two years ago - a tree is planted in a special grove commemorating their life and career. I am saddened by both the loss of a dear friend and consummate leader and the fact that my schedule has me in a place where I was unable to attend the ceremony.
During my 30 years at NASA, 15 of which were spent as an astronaut, I had the opportunity to observe the behaviors of many of my astronaut colleagues, the majority of which would become commanders in some form or fashion. Dex was one of the "good ones." A man of integrity, highly skilled and intelligent, he was also able to understand the assets brought to the table by his crew. In addition, he had compassion; knowing when to step in or back off, or to allow an early departure from a training exercise to tend to a personal family matter.
I learned a lot from Dex. Watching his leadership, enjoying his smile and sense of humor... sticking him in the rump during our mission quarantine and then again 225 miles above the earth as I, the crew medical officer, gave him shots to help combat the injustice of zero gravity and its potential to cause motion sickness (Yes, Lisa, Dex did have a tight buttocks! ‹grin›).
Dex is now exercising his command authority from a far better place than this Earth. I look forward to one day, God willing, joining his crew once again, and sharing stories of the fifteen days we shared together in outer space.
Thanks Dex... I miss you.[/i]
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