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.
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, nasa.gov
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.