Former NASA Astronaut Hoot Gibson visits Hickman High School

Friday, May 28, 2010 | 4:03 p.m. CDT; updated 9:05 a.m. CDT, Saturday, May 29, 2010
Former NASA astronaut Robert "Hoot" Gibson operates a robotic arm at Hickman High School's NASA simulator, called Columbia Aeronautics and Space Administration (CASA). With the help of Hickman senior Jordan Verslues, right, Gibson picks up a mock satellite on May 28 during his visit to Hickman. CASA is a program designed to stimulate many elements of space missions, including mission control, life on a space shuttle and troubleshooting problems that may occur.

CLARIFICATION: Gibson's first mission on the Atlantis was his third space mission.

COLUMBIA — Three. Two. One. Hickman High School students lifted off with former NASA astronaut Hoot Gibson.

On Friday, former NASA astronaut Hoot Gibson visited Hickman’s Columbia Aeronautics and Space Association, a student-run space simulation program housed at Hickman High school. It allows students to use a combination of leadership skills and aeronautic knowledge on simulated space missions.

Five Things to Know About Hoot Gibson

1. He has spent a total of 36 and a half days in space.

2. He commanded the Space Shuttle mission STS-71 that exchanged crews with the Russian Space Station Mir. This was the first crew exchange in space.

3. He set the world record for "Altitude in Horizontal Flight."

4. He flew five missions between 1984 and 1995.

5. He did not stop commanding missions because he lost interest. "I've been greedy enough hogging five flights. It's time for me to get out of the way and give the new guys a chance," Gibson said.

Source: Hoot Gibson,

Gibson has made three appearances at CASA, but for the first time he suited up with a group of students and headed to the space station as part of a simulation.

Gibson, wearing a blue NASA jumpsuit, used a robotic arm to repair a satellite, observed various science projects and watched the student astronauts communicate with mission control.

In the simulation, student astronauts often have to cope with unpredictable conditions, controlled by other students working behind the scenes.

“Don’t you just have a feeling that they’re going to slam us with something here?” Gibson asked during a calm moment.

Suddenly the space station was bombarded with solar flares and the crew crammed into an isolation quarters to avoid exposure to radiation.

“There are always malfunctions," Gibson said to the students later. "Something always goes wrong."

Gibson is no stranger to close calls.

In his first mission on Atlantis space shuttle — Gibson's third to space — the ship was hit with debris during launch. The ship was damaged and Atlantis nearly burned during re-entry.

Luckily, Gibson returned safely from that mission — as well as the simulated mission at Hickman.

While at Hickman High School, Gibson also presented the CASA Big Diel Awards, which were named in honor of previous CASA mentor Lynn Diel.

Gibson announced that students Ben Levin, Jordan Mills and Miles Faaborg each received the award.

After mission debriefing was complete, the space team returned to their role as high school students — eager to have Gibson sign their yearbooks.

“Today’s our last day and you’ve definitely made it worth while,” senior Kristyn Sample said to Gibson. Sample hopes to one day be an aerospace engineer.

Many students interested in aeronautics valued hearing about Gibson’s experiences.

“He’s an inspiration to keep working hard and to achieve my goals,” Sample said.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Thana Krishnan May 29, 2010 | 3:05 a.m.

That close call you mentioned in your article was not during his first mission. It was in fact Hoot Gibson's third mission,the STS-27 on the Atlantis which he commanded between 2nd - 6th December 1988.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.