No astronaut gig for local educator

A Columbia biology teacher was in top 35 for the ‘educator astronaut’ position in an 11-member crew.
Tuesday, May 4, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:18 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 12, 2008

Paul Mahoney had to tell his students Monday morning that he will not have the chance to ride in a space shuttle after all.

In an e-mail sent Monday, Mahoney announced that he was not chosen to be a part of NASA’s Educator Astronaut program.

“While I am of course dissapointed, I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this exciting selection process,” Mahoney wrote in the e-mail.

According to Mahoney’s wife, Jeanne Erickson, he received an official letter from NASA recently letting him know that he will not be going to Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Mahoney, a biology teacher at Columbia Independent School, was one of 35 teachers from a group of 16,000 applicants considered for the position of educator astronaut with NASA.

He had spent a grueling week last November going through physical and psychological tests as part of the interview process.

“It’s hard,” Erickson said. “It was still a great experience, but it’s going to be an adjustment.”

Three educator astronauts were chosen from across the country to be a part of the 11-member astronaut corps, but these astronauts probably won’t be going on a shuttle either.

“Those chosen won’t be shuttle astonauts,” NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said. “They will be a part of whatever the next vehicle for space travel will be. This new generation hasn’t taken shape yet.”

Candidates originally appliedfor a shuttle position. NASA had to call to ask them if they still wanted to be considered if they weren’t going to get to go on a shuttle, Beutel said.

The three educator astronauts began their orientation at Johnson Space Center on Monday and were very enthusiastic about what they were doing.

The names of the entire astronaut class, including the three educator astronauts , will be annouced Thursday at the Space Day celebration at the National Air and Space Museum.

“We had to not think about our immediate needs but our future needs,” Beutel said. “Not who are we going to need now, but who are we going to need in the future.”

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