NASA Astronaut encourages children to shoot for the stars.

October 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

NASA astronaut Don Thomas described his time living in space and encouraged children to work hard and follow their dreams in a speech given at Towson University.

In a speech titled “Living and Working In Space,” Thomas told the audience that being an astronaut was his dream ever since seeing his first space launch in kindergarten Since that time, Thomas said he has been on four space shuttle missions- all made possible, he said, through hard work and passion.

“If it’s something you want to do, do not be afraid if it’s hard work because it will always pay off in the end,” Thomas told the audience of mostly younger children.

Thomas was rejected to be an astronaut three times before being accepted the fourth time after years of work. Thomas said that he still has his first rejection letter to remind him of how far he has come.

Thomas explained how the space shuttle worked and propelled people into space and showed pictures that gave a glimpse into the life of an astronaut while in orbit. He held up dehydrated creamed spinach and bagged shortbread cookies while discussing an astronaut’s diet.

“Did you get to eat Jell-O?” asked Izabella Prebs, 5, as Thomas talked about how food would float away if not properly used.

The audience winced and groaned when the topic of how the bathroom was used and marveled when Thomas presented pictures of Earth that he’s taken from space. Pictures of the Great Barrier Reef, the rainforests of South America, the Nile River and more from 200 miles above Earth showed what Thomas got to see every day.

Thomas showed pictures of his crew members floating while using a laptop and being strapped to the ceiling to go to sleep. Each picture elicited a gasp or an excited “cool” from the young audience members.

A picture of a blob of liquid floating in the zero-gravity environment gave Thomas the chance talk about how everything works differently without gravity. He said it takes up to two weeks for the astronauts to adjust after coming back to Earth.

He emphasized how amazing it was to orbit around the world and see sights that only a few other people would see. Thomas joked that he had seen the top of Mt. Everest 25 times but he did it “the lazy way” and he dispelled the myth that the Great Wall of China could be seen from space.

“Never give up on your dream, no matter how impossible they seem,” Thomas said in his conclusion. He said he lucky that his childhood dream came true and described that his experience wouldn’t have happened if he had stopped working hard.

After he was rejected, Thomas said he wanted to give up and move on but when he woke up the next morning his first thought was that he still wanted to be an astronaut.

Thomas has been a part of three missions on the Columbia space shuttle and one on the Discovery shuttle. He has spent a month and a half in space on all his missions combined and has orbited the Earth more than 700 times.

The speech was a part of the “Saturday Morning Science Series,” which is a program that gets children involved in math and science through presentations, speeches and demonstrations sponsored by the Hackerman Academy of Mathematics and Science.

Thomas spoke at Towson University’s Smith Hall.

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