updated 12/7/2006 4:55:36 PM ET 2006-12-07T21:55:36

U.S. Navy Capt. Robert Curbeam
Age: 44
Hometown: Baltimore.
Family: Two children.

Curbeam will spacewalk three times to rewire the space lab and help guide a new space station addition into place as it is being attached by robotic arm. During his rewiring tasks, he’s hoping to avoid a scare that popped up in a similar spacewalk during his last mission aboard Atlantis in 2001.

During that spacewalk, a leaking connector sprayed ammonia into space and contaminated his spacesuit. He was ordered to stay in the sunlight until the ammonia on his suit was baked off before he was allowed back inside the space station.

“We’ve taken some steps and made it as good as can be within the current design,” Curbeam said of the ammonia lines. “Hopefully, we’ll never have that problem again.”

Curbeam, who is called “Beamer” by his fellow astronauts, earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy and later got a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He attended Navy Fighter Weapons (Topgun) School and Test Pilot School before becoming an instructor at the U.S. Naval Academy.

He was chosen to be an astronaut in 1994 and flew his first shuttle mission aboard Discovery in 1997. His two previous spaceflights make him the most experienced of the crew.

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