HOUSTON -- Jack Lousma is not Gordon Fullerton's first teammate as a space shuttle astronaut, but the two work like they have been flying together for years.
They took different routes to win their assignment as the pilots of the third flight of the shuttle Columbia, set to begin a seven-day flight on March 22.
Both are colonels, but in different services -- Lousma in the Marines and Fullerton in the Air Force -- and only Fullerton followed the traditional test pilot path to the space corps.
Lousma, 46-year-old mission commander, is a veteran of the 59-day Skylab 2 mission in 1973. Fullerton, 45 and Lousma's co-pilot, has not been in space but he has flown a shuttle. He flew the shuttle Enterprise in approach and landing tests off the back of a Boeing 747 in 1977 with Fred Haise who has since retired.
Lousma and Fullerton have known each other for a long time.
Lousma became an astronaut in 1966 after serving as a reconnaissance pilot for the Marines. He was a member of the astronaut support teams for Apollos 9, 10 and 13 and, after flying aboard Skylab, was backup pilot for the Apollo-Soyuz joint Soviet-American spaceflight in 1975.
Fullerton is a graduate of the Air Force test pilot school and was a bomber test pilot when he was named to the Air Force's first astronaut team. He moved over to the civilian space corps in 1969 when the Air Force Manned Orbiting Laborabory program was canceled. He supported Apollos 14 and 17.
Fullerton was asked about switching partners in the middle of the game.
'It's no problem at all when you switch from someone like Fred to someone like Jack. I mean that in a good sense for both the individuals. They were both extremely capable people and ... very easy to work for,' Fullerton said.
'Jack gives me more complete control of details and systems problems. I think that's the right decision because flying the airplane is a lot more of a challenge in the orbital mission than it was in approach and landing.'
Lousma and Fullerton have shown their easy compatibility through humor at news conferences.
Fullerton once was asked about the thrill of his first flight into space and he responded he planned to do some looking out the window. Lousma interrupted: 'Can't let you look out the window, Gordo. You wouldn't do anything else.'
And there was joking talk of mutiny by Fullerton: 'I've been trying to figure out which wire to cut so Jack's end controller (control stick) won't work and I get to land (the shuttle.)'
Landing the shuttle will be Lousma's job. Fullerton's prime job will be running the first loaded tests of the space shuttle's mechanical arm. He will be the first to use the arm to move a payload around in space.
'If I behave myself,' Lousma joked, 'he's even going to let me do it once or twice.'
It is important Lousma and Fullerton be comfortable with each other. They expect to be the busiest, if not the most harried two-man shuttle crew ever. Probably not many later crews will be as busy.
'We'll probably have more things to do for a two-man crew than any of the subsequent flights for a while,' Fullerton said.
'It's a longer flight. It has more experiments that require crew involvement. There's more testing on the arm,' Lousma said.
Lousma, a rusty-haired, granite-jawed, 6-footer who carried a Bible into space aboard Skylab and is active in the Christian Officers' Fellowship, is a Dutch immigrant's grandson who has traced his roots.
He and his family traveled to the village of Piaam in the Dutch province of Friesland: 'It doesn't look too different from when my grandfather left there when he was 25 years old, just before the turn of the century, and came here.'
'My second cousins are living in the house that he lived in. The church where he worshiped right across the road is still there. He was married there. We had a very enjoyable visit. It's nice to know where you came from,' Lousma said.
His father, Jacob, kept spelling his name the old way, Louwsma, so that Lousma had to have 'an affidavit saying I'm my father's son.'
Lousma grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and earned an aeronautical engineering degree at the University of Michigan, where he also played third-string quarterback until an elbow injury ended his football career.
Fullerton -- balding, steely eyed and also 6 feet tall, although at 165 pounds thinner than the 195-pound Lousma -- was born in Rochester, N.Y., and was raised in Portland, Ore.
Fullerton earned bachelors and masters degrees in mechanical engineering at California Institute of Technology and worked for Hughes Aircraft Co. before joining the Air Force.
While Lousma is a Bible-toting witness for his God, Fullerton is quieter about his religion: 'I categorize myself in the middle ground. I'm a regular churchgoing person, but I'm not into a lot of extracurricular church activity.'
Fullerton has more total flight time than Lousma, 9,000 hours versus 5,400 hours for his commander.
Lousma appears more comfortable with the public relations part of the job of being an astronaut.
'I think it's important to try to convey to people what it's like to fly in space and something about the people who do it. Sometimes it gets overdone a little bit, but I think it's important,' Lousma said.
Fullerton, who at first appeared shy but who has warmed up good-humoredly to his star status, admits he has experienced discomfort in some public relations roles.
'Like a watermelon festival. You're there as an object for people to look at. They're not sure why you're there and you're not sure and you don't have anything to say in the context of the event,' Fullerton said.
Fullerton developed a keen interest in flying 'way early. I can remember back at the fringes of my childhood memory.' His father, Charles R. Fullerton, was interested in planes, joining a friend in buying a Jenny biplane about 1920.
'My dad was in the Army Air Corps in World War II. He sent me at Christmas time a cardboard instrument panel with moveable dials. It had a stick. You could sit in a chair and fly,' Fullerton said.
Lousma also was 'always inerested in airplanes ... and built models' as a child, although by the time he got to college he was not sure he ever would fly.
He did not go into the Reserve Officer Training Corps in school and he was married young, two facts he found to be a barrier to the Army and Air Force. But then he checked on the Marines.
'I didn't even know the Marines had any planes,' Lousma said. 'I asked them, 'Can I fly?' They said, 'Sure.' I said, 'I'm married.' They said, 'It doesn't matter.' I took the test. I went home and told my wife we're in the Marines.
'That's how I got into the Marines. Because they'd let me fly.'
Both men are married and have strong families with many relatives planning to attend the launch at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Lousma has four children, all teenagers except 1-year-old Joseph. Fullerton has two, a boy 6 and a girl 8.
Both men run and lift weights to keep fit. Lousma likes outdoor activities like golf, fishing, hunting, and working around the house. Fullerton prefers tennis and racquetball