A night with NASA

Astronaut Jim Voss speaks at CU

September 21, 2011

By Cassandra Smith

It’s not often you find aerospace engineers, toddlers, and high school students at the same event, but it seems an interest in astronauts crosses a wide range of ages and intellects.

The diverse crowd came to the University of Colorado’s Fiske Planetarium last  night to hear former astronaut Jim Voss talk about his experiences with NASA.  The event was a part of a larger series of events taking place this week, as a part of a campaign to promote the space agency’s traveling “Destination Station” Exhibit in Denver.

NASA space suit engineer Mallory Jennings explained, “This is a part of about a ten day kickoff that we’re doing around Denver and the surrounding areas to get people excited about NASA and the International Space Station, and specifically this exhibit.”

The multimedia, hands-on exhibit is free to the public at the Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum.  It will be running through October, and shows the history and technology of the International Space Station.

Even better than an exhibit however, is a live astronaut, and Jim Voss is an impressive one at that.

Voss was born in 1959 in Alabama, and studied aerospace engineering at Auburn University.  He joined the Army ROTC, but deferred entry into active duty to get a master’s degree from CU.

Voss then entered the army, where he gathered a litany of honors and awards, including the William P. Clements, Jr. Award for Excellence in Education as the outstanding Professor at the U.S. Military Academy.

Voss attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1983; soon after that, he was assigned as a flight test engineer for U.S. Army Aviation Engineering Fight Activity.  Voss caught NASA’s eye in June of 1987, and he was brought in as an astronaut candidate.

He then underwent even more intensive training, including two years at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia.  In 2000 and 2001 Voss spent 177 days in space at the International Space Station, orbiting the Earth at a speed of 17,500 mph.

When talking about his day-to-day life aboard the station, he told the crowd at Fiske, “It’s like going to the office; it’s just a really special office to work in.”  Voss said his four favorite things about space were: floating, sleeping, looking out the window at Earth, and building lasting relationships with his fellow astronauts.

After his presentation, Voss took questions from the crowd and signed autographs for his younger fans.  Maxwell Dielman, 15, heard about the event from his parents.

“He’s fun to listen to,” Maxwell said.

Before and after Voss’s talk, NASA also provided interactive information stations and space themed activities for children.

Jennings was pleased to see the high interest in the event.  “We’ve gotten really good response and welcome from specifically the Boulder community.” she said. “It’s exciting to see this many people excited about NASA and our astronauts, and about our programs.”

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