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AA students get an out of this world experience

Pictured top left: Dr. Leroy Chiao, NASA astronaut, recently visited a sixth grade American Academy class to tell students what it takes to be an astronaut. (Left to right), AA sixth grade science teacher Ben Wolfe, Dr. Leroy Chiao, and AA Middle School Director Amanda Lane-Cline.

Information and photo provided by American Academy

American Academy (AA) sixth graders recently got a closer look at life in space through the eyes of experienced astronaut, Dr. Leroy Chiao. Chiao visited the school as a representative for the Space Foundation, a global, nonprofit organization in space awareness. Chiao uses his extensive space experience these days as special advisor on human spaceflight for the Space Foundation, and he brought some amazing stories to the classroom during his visit.

Students heard about his three space shuttle missions as well as his time as commander and NASA science officer for Expedition 10 to the International Space Station (ISS), where he lived for six and a half months. Most importantly, after talking about his out-of-this-world experiences, Chiao gave the sixth graders a look at the kind of education and experience it takes to become an astronaut.

For most students, it came as a surprise that Chiao started out as a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, rather than space science. In fact, his journey to space began with research engineering before he joined NASA. As it turns out, you can’t just be a well-educated and accomplished scientist if you want to head into space. In addition to English, Chiao also speaks Mandarin and Russian, the last of which he had to learn during a three-year period to prepare for his time on the ISS, where he worked with Russian astronauts on various projects.

Chiao also discussed the kind of scientific training it takes to work with astronauts from other countries on the ISS. Not only did the astronauts have to learn each others’ spoken tongues, but they also had to learn each others’ engineering systems, which vary from country to country. The students were enthralled by all of this vivid detail and eager to learn about the human aspects and requirements of space travel, asking questions about what free time is like on a space ship, what astronauts eat and how they sleep. Chiao even tried out a little Russian, to the delight of his newest fans.

Kristi Doke, STEM Associate at AA, was thrilled with the visit. “The purpose of bringing Dr. Chiao to our school as part of our STEM discovery program is to give the students a closer look at the application of what they are currently studying. Along with a visit to the Challenger Space Center in Colorado Springs and a more in depth study of the solar system and aeronautical science in the curriculum, Dr. Chiao’s visit brought the realities of space travel to the classroom and made it real for our students. The kids loved it!”

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