From the earliest forms of flight to state-of-the-art space exploration, students at University Avenue ACES Elementary School marked the beginning of World Space Week Oct. 4.
As the school day got underway, Abigail Harrison (aka Astronaut Abby) spoke to the students of her ambitions to be the first astronaut to visit Mars.
The 16-year-old Minneapolis South High School junior told students she’d always dreamed of going to Mars. And she urged them to pursue their dreams with passion and purpose.
“Mars has drawn me ever since I was a kid looking up at the night sky,” Harrison said, describing her life-long ambition to do just that, then sharing with them a piece of life-changing advice she received from Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano.
“I had gone to see a shuttle launch and afterward, I met Luca,” she said. “Meeting him changed my life. I got to ask him all kinds of questions about being an astronaut and he answered them all.”
“Then he gave me some advice that changed my life. He said, ‘Do what you love, not what you think NASA (or any other group or organization) wants you to do. Study a field you really enjoy. Do what you love to do.’
“And that’s what I want to tell you, too. You will have lots of opportunities. You just need to work hard toward your goal and you will accomplish it. You will see your dreams come true.”
Harrison is following that advice. Even while completing her junior year in high school, she is studying at the University of Minnesota, determined to earn a double major in micro biology and interplanetary geology.
Harrison told the students what it was like to see the shuttle launch, saying it was there and then it was gone so quickly.
“It’s more about the journey than the actual destination,” she said.
And then Harrison described to students the size and scope of the international space station, what she experienced at Space Camp, what it was like visiting mission control and shared with them some particles of information gathered during her exploration of all things space-related.
“Maybe you want to be an astronaut,” she said. “Maybe you want to be a journalist and write the stories. Maybe you want to be an athlete.
“Whatever you want to do, just follow your dreams – and share your dreams. Tell a teacher, a friend, your parents. They can help you reach your dreams, they can encourage you along the way, and they will be so thrilled to see your reach your dreams.”
Also visiting University Avenue ACES Elementary School during the Oct. 4 kick-off of World Space Week, was Nowthen resident Glen Terry, a 35-year veteran of hot air ballooning.
In the afternoon hours on that rainy Friday, Terry set up his balloon inside the gymnasium, showed a video about ballooning and then described to students the science and history behind hot air balloon flight.
“My balloon – which is an average-sized balloon – weighs about 500 pounds and holds two passengers in the basket,” Terry said.
The balloon itself is made of approximately 1,000 yards of fabric and holds 80,000 cubic feet of air, he said.
“If we filled it completely, this would fill the whole gymnasium – floor to ceiling and wall to wall,” Terry said. “It’s like flying a house.”
Then, with the aid of a giant fan, Terry partially filled the balloon, much to the students’ delight.
Terry distributed several squares of balloon fabric, giving students an idea what the balloon is made of and then invited them to come take a closer look at the basket.
Oohs and aahs and exclamations of wonder filled the gymnasium as students filed around the prone balloon, pausing to peer down into the basket and imagining what it would be to float above the trees in a hot air balloon.
Sue Austreng is at