Frank Walker went to Lanier High School with Macon legend Sonny Carter. Walker knew the former astronaut before he joined NASA and before Carter became a doctor. He says, even in the early days Carter excelled. "He was an all-star player in Warner Robins. He was a wonderful athlete. People don't really know that about him because he didn't focus on that."
Boone Smith also went to high school with Carter and remembers catching up with him at a class reunion. Smith told us, "In 1985 he had just been named an astronaut, and he came to that reunion and that was a big deal because he was more or less the class hero. "
Walker speaks of when Sonny Carter confidently approached the woman who would be his wife, while attending Emory University. Walker recalled the conversation he had with Carter, "He said, see that girl? She was a very attractive Tri-Delta at Emory. He said I'm going to marry her." Ultimately, he did marry her.
Carter spent 120 hours in space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery in 1989. Just two years later, he died after a commercial flight to Jacksonville crashed in inclement weather. Sonny Carter Elementary School here Macon was dedicated in his honor.
With all the accomplishment, Carter's friends remember his genuine heart the most.
Frank Walker added that Carter new how to overcome incredible obstacles. He says that when Sonny was young, he had a stuttering problem. Ironically, Carter overcame his stutter and went on to become a NASA spokesman.
What's next now that the shuttle program is winding down?
Talk to NASA workers, and they talk of space exploration in the past tense.
NASA has signed an agreement with a startup space company to launch and land its proposed mini-shuttle at the Kennedy Space Center.
Executives would not say how many jobs that might save out of the 7,000 shuttle workers who are losing theirs.
NASA's next big mission, to an asteroid, won't happen till 2025, with a mission to Mars in 2035.
A new spaceship called Orion is being redesigned, and the unveiling of plans for a new super-sized rocket that would make future missions possible keep getting delayed.
Private space companies, like the mini-shuttle builder, all need government money to make commercial spaceflight possible by 2015 and Congress is now debating a plan to slash that budget.
That's been the big fear: NASA's lack of a mission makes it a target for budget-cutters.