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Celebrating Discovery's Safe Landing

NEAL CONAN, host:

There were sighs of relief from California to Florida early this morning as the space shuttle Discovery officially pulled out of orbit and landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in the California desert. Among those watching in the wee hours was the mother of one of the astronauts aboard Discovery. She is Rae Carmarda(ph), mother of Charles Carmarda, mission specialist, and she joins us now by phone from her home in Ozone Park in Queens, New York.

Welcome and congratulations.

Ms. RAE CARMARDA (Astronaut Charles Carmarda's Mother): Thank you.

CONAN: Have you had a chance to speak with your son yet?

Ms. CARMARDA: Yes, I did, about two hours ago. Charles called from California.

CONAN: And what did he tell you? Is he--I hope he's fine.

Ms. CARMARDA: Oh, he was ecstatic. He said it was a great trip. And they enjoyed it immensely.

CONAN: I guess this vindicates your decision maybe not to go watch the landing in Florida.

Ms. CARMARDA: Oh, well, it's a good thing we didn't because his family was there and they got to miss him but they will reunite tonight in Texas.

CONAN: Now I wonder what you felt as you heard the shuttle leaving orbit in those--Are they scary minutes? They must be.

Ms. CARMARDA: They--I guess so. But Charles always reassured me that everything was fine. And it would be all right. And maybe everything was exaggerated a little bit but they could take care of it.

CONAN: Were you alone? Were there people around you when the landing happened this morning?

Ms. CARMARDA: Oh, yeah. My oldest son and my sister and a couple of cousins, and, of course, my husband was with me.

CONAN: On a mission like this, I wonder if you and he thought back to the days when your son was little and--Was he one of those kids who always dreamed of being an astronaut?

Ms. CARMARDA: Yes. I must say that. He was 10 years old when he first thought about it. He went to Grumman Aircraft Factory near home with my brother-in-law who worked there, and he saw the first rocket go up, and he came home and said, `That's it, Mom. That's what I'm gonna be, an astronaut.' And Mom said, `Oh, sure, Charles, sure.'

CONAN: Sure, sure, sure. When did you realize he was actually going to do it?

Ms. CARMARDA: Well, when he first went to work for NASA after graduating college, he applied, but I think he wasn't mature enough at the time. They didn't accept him. But 10 years ago when he applied again, I thought, `Well, maybe they won't accept him now 'cause he's much older.' So when he called me the day that they were notified--they all get notified on one particular day at a certain time. And he calls and he said, `Mom, I was called out of an important meeting by--they told--called to tell me about whether I was accepted.' And before he could say anything I said, `That's all right, Charles. If you weren't accepted, don't feel bad.' And he said, `Wait a minute. You didn't make me finish. I was accepted.' And I said, `Oh, my God!'

CONAN: There you go.

Ms. CARMARDA: Right.

CONAN: I wonder--you must be exhausted at this point? I mean, the last three days, expecting it to come down now.

Ms. CARMARDA: Right. I don't think I've slept for three days.

CONAN: Well, get some rest.

Ms. CARMARDA: Oh, I need it.

CONAN: And thanks very much for spending the time with us; we appreciate it.

Ms. CARMARDA: You're welcome.

CONAN: And, again, congratulations to you and your son.

Ms. CARMARDA: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Rae Carmarda, the mother of Charles Carmarda, mission specialist on the space shuttle Discovery, joined us by phone from her home in Ozone Park in Queens, New York.

You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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