NASA Astronaut Scott D. Tingle (Captain, U.S. Navy) will soon blast off for a mission at the International Space Station, but he'll do so grounded with an education he received right here on the SouthCoast.

Captain Tingle spoke with WBSM's Phil Paleologos live on Friday morning from the Yuri A. Gagarin State Scientific Research and Testing Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.

"It's a bit surreal, but it's starting to get very exciting," Capt. Tingle said. "It's been a lot of work. We've kept our nose to the grindstone for a long time, to perfect our skills and our capabilities."

Capt. Tingle is a Randolph native who attended Blue Hills Regional Vocational Technical High School in Canton. He went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineer from UMass Dartmouth, then called Southeastern Massachusetts University. Tingle earned a Masters of Science from Purdue University.

Capt. Tingle said his education at UMD helped shape his future, and gave him the basis for doing the work he is about do aboard the ISS.

"First, the most important thing, the professors there were absolutely incredible," he said. "They did a really great job of just being great mentors. Myself and the group of folks that I studied with when I was there, we left that education experience with a great handle on the basics of engineering and science, and those are skills and knowledge that have followed us our entire careers, and will continue to do so."

Capt. Tingle and his crew will launch for the ISS December 17th, and spend two-and-a-half days in orbit before docking on December 19th.

"When we get there, after a short period to adapt to space flight, we're going to get busy," Capt. Tingle said. "We have to do maintenance on all the systems on board. We have over 250 experiments at an given time that we'll be working on, and we'll be preparing for a couple of spacewalks during my expedition there. We've got a lot of work going on, and it's going to be very busy."

Tingle's mission will involve examining the growth of common grass species in the microgravity environment of space, as a way to improve life support systems and resource plannings for future long-term space missions.

Capt. Tingle's expedition consists of six people, with two additional crew members, and is scheduled to end April 17th with an April 23rd landing.

"They may extend that out to June. We'll see how that goes," Tingle said.

Despite all the years of training--Capt. Tingle first became an astronaut in July 2009--he knows actually arriving on the ISS will be an overwhelming experience, and one he's not taking for granted.

"I think the biggest challenge will be to take it all in and realize the bigger picture of it all," Tingle said. "Looking out the window, seeing Earth for the first time I think will be overwhelming. I'm going to need to work to keep that in perspective, so I can keep my eye on the smaller goals, and make it a successful expedition."

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