“Welcome home, friends,” Mission Control said after the space shuttle Discovery’s safe return to earth Aug. 9.
No one was more pleased to hear those words than David Johnson, an elder at the Lake Cities church, Trophy Club, Texas.
“You hesitate to say relief, but I think that’s probably accurate,” said Johnson, director of space programs for Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control in Dallas. “There was some relief and satisfaction in knowing that we did everything we could to make it as safe as possible.”
As reported by The Dallas Morning News, it was a hole in a piece of the shuttle that Johnson’s shop made — a breach caused by a debris strike during launch — that doomed Columbia and its crew of seven in 2003.
Over the last two-plus years, Lockheed Martin stayed busy helping NASA recover from the disaster. The plant makes the reinforced carbon-carbon, or RCC, panels that protect the parts of the shuttle that get hottest during re-entry into the atmosphere.
“I think we were confident,” Johnson said of the Discovery flight, “but that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the stress.”
At the Lake Cities church, Johnson is known as a quiet, humble shepherd.
“He really enjoys going out and visiting people and praying for the sick in their homes,” fellow elder Ron Cullum said.