Oct 2008: Astronaut Duane Carey speaks at EHMS

At 7:30 am on October 3, 2008, Duane “Digger” Carey and his wife, Cheryl Carey cruised into our school parking lot on their bright yellow motorcycle, catching the attention of many of our students. Commander Carey greeted us with a wide smile and expressed his enthusiasm for the day’s visit. Mr. Ponder and I escorted the Careys to the multipurpose room where they set-up their equipment in preparation for the day’s events.

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Digger began the day with two assemblies where he spoke to students about his life, career and the importance of education. Commander Carey described his own personal difficulties with school and discipline problems at the middle school level. It wasn’t until about tenth grade when Commander Carey realized that in order to live a life of not being “told what to do,” he had to step it up and take control of his future by pursuing academics. In order to call your own shots and do what you love, Commander Carey stressed the importance of getting an education and taking hard classes, like physics, biology and foreign languages. He told students that there is nothing “geeky” about taking the hard classes – those are the classes that will give you the power to do anything you can dream of. He also showed a video of his experience as the pilot on STS-109, the last mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Through a series of student questions we also learned how astronauts train for their missions and what “take off” feels like. We also learned that Commander Carey missed the Earth (and his family) while he was away in space and probably would not journey to space again if given the opportunity.

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At the end of the assemblies, the NES Team gave Commander Carey a short break before he made his way onto campus to visit classrooms. His first stop was Ms. Bigley’s class where Commander Carey shared more details of his training – including how to use a toilet on the space shuttle. This is one thing that ALL students inquire about but after asking it’s almost as if they don’t want to hear the answer. Digger didn’t go into any detail, but the sounds of “eewww” and “gross” were whispered all around the room. In Ms. Cerezo’s class, Commander Carey spoke to students about the importance of reading and writing, citing an example of a person who had great ideas, but could not communicate his thoughts to his boss and so did not rise in his career field. His last stop was in Ms. Nelson’s class, where students continued to learn more about Commander Carey’s journey to space and his current pursuits.

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Commander Carey made his way from the classrooms back to the Space Lounge where he enjoyed lunch with fifteen students and four teachers. (The students and teachers were selected based on their answers to the NASA Trivia questions.) For dessert, the guests had the opportunity to sample freeze-dried fruit and ice cream. The luncheon was a joyous occasion; one that will be remembered and cherished by our all of our guests.

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