Astronaut Tracy Caldwell Dyson visit school with Congressman Schiff and shares stories of space.
By Kevork KURDOGHLIAN
“Which one of you is going to be the first person on Mars?” asked Congressman Adam Schiff on Jan. 23 to a group of highly enthusiastic third and fifth grade students in his introduction of NASA astronaut Dr. Tracy Caldwell Dyson.
In the auditorium of La Crescenta Elementary School, all the students excitedly raised their hands. Congressman Schiff and astronaut Dyson visited that morning to share their experiences with America’s space program.
From his seat on the Appropriations Committee, Schiff has fought hard to secure consistent funding for NASA.
He said in an interview after the event, “NASA is one of the few domestic agencies that has had level funding, which in an era of very diminished budgets, is an accomplishment.”
Three years ago, from her seat aboard Expeditions 23 and 24, Dyson, an astronaut since 1998, experienced space on both the American Endeavor space shuttle and a Russian Soyuz rocket. In her two trips to the International Space Station she conducted scientific experiments, made structural repairs and even participated in the “Shuttle Olympics.”
Dyson was born and raised in Arcadia in Southern California. When she was young, roughly the ages of her young audience at LCE, her family would go on camping trips to the nearby high desert. Those trips with her family were some of the experiences that sparked her interest in space.
She said, “I used to lie out there on our trailer … and look up at the stars.”
When she was 16, her parents encouraged her to make a list of all the things she wanted to do, as differentiated from what she wanted to be, a process that became crucial to finding the inspiration to become an astronaut.
While she was including favorites like teamwork, science, athletics and languages on her list, America was preparing to send the first teacher, Christa McAuliffe, into space.
Though she did not have an “If she can do it, so can I” moment in 1986, she did say to herself, “If a teacher can go to space, then maybe I can learn how to go into space, too.”
Dyson promoted the value of lifelong learning and told the students to be proud of their country’s space program.
“I worked hard on the space station because I believe in it,” she said. “I believe that’s where we need to be. I believe that we as a country and a world need to keep exploring space.”
She also praised the important work of teachers and promoted the value of teamwork.
“You guys are so young right now and you’re learning how to be a part of a team,” she said. “[It] is really good because that’s the only way to explore space.” She added, “And not just a team from the United States, but a team of people across the world.”
When the students entered the auditorium, their curiosity had been captured by the woman in the blue space suit. By the end of the 90-minute event, the students bid Dyson farewell with an abundance of hugs.
After the event, La Crescenta Elementary School principal Kim Bishop shared how impressed she was with the astronaut’s comments.
“[Her talk was] inspirational for kids to start thinking about what they could do that would be meaningful in their lives,” Bishop said.