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Brooklyn clan holds its breath for astro−cousin

Members of the Midwood Active Adults Program held their breath as they awaited the return of the cousin of one of its members from space.

Astronaut Michael Massimino, the cousin of long−time member Connie Puleo, joined his crew as they launched Space Shuttle Atlantis on a final repair mission to Hubble Space Telescope. After a three−day delay due to inclement weather at Cape Canaveral in Florida, the crew of space shuttle Atlantis safely touched down instead at Edwards Airforce Base, 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles.

Puleo, a Flatbush resident, was joined by other members and Midwood Active Adults staff as she awaited the news of Massimino’s mission (STS−125), part of the fifth and final space shuttle service missions to Hubble Space Telescope. Massimino assisted in repairing and improving the orbiting observatory’s capabilities.

Massimino has been flying on missions since March 2002, when he flew on STS−109 and has since logged more than 10 days in space, including two spacewalks. He currently serves as a spacecraft communicator, in Mission Control and performs other technical tasks in the Astronaut Office CAPCOM (Capsule Communicator) Branch.

“I pray for Michael every night,” said Puleo, embracing a framed photograph of her relative.

“There is always a big risk when the shuttle goes up in space, but I stay positive and hope for the best.”

Puleo recalled how frightened she was seeing Massimino fly off on his first flight in 2002. She said that it still gives her chills when she remembers the moment the shuttle launched in Port Canaveral.

“I watched my cousin go up in space with tears streaming down my cheeks…it was absolutely heart wrenching, and yet it brought warmth to my heart to know that some of my blood was leaving on that shuttle,” said Puleo.

Puleo, who has long retired from intelligence and security work for the government, has recently received recognition for service during the Cold War. She is an active contributor to the Midwood Active Adults Program.

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