Astronaut’s story – surprisingly down-to-earth, inspiring

Astronaut's story – surprisingly down-to-earth, inspiring
I shook hands with space man today.

Today, I met NASA astronaut Captain Winston Scott.

A guest of Briar Cliff University, in Sioux City, IA, Captain Scott piloted himself on a five-hour flight from Houston, TX, to bring a message to Briar Cliff's incoming freshmen.

Listening to Captain Scott was like being in class with your favorite teacher and having a conversation with your best friend at the same time.

After his presentation, he spent about 30 unhurried minutes responding in colorful detail to students' questions. Here's my paraphrasing with the short answers to the most memorable interchanges.

How do you go to the bathroom in outer space? Very carefully. Everything is done through suction – suction is your best friend.

How do you shower? Sponge baths.

What do you eat? Just about anything. Food is dried in pouches. Inject water into the pouch, wait a few minutes and eat.

How do you sleep? Buckle yourself down; otherwise, you'll float around.

What were your fears about going into space? Fears? What fears? There are no fears? There is no time to be afraid.

How did you apply to be an astronaut? I almost didn't apply.

Impressed and puzzled by his candor, I thought: Captain Scott, what do you mean you almost did not apply to be an astronaut? You are an accomplished naval aviator with a distinguished and lengthy portfolio. You have accumulated more than 4,000 hours of flight time.

You are an engineer, author and executive. Just think – if you had not applied to be a NASA astronaut, you would have missed out on the STS-72 Endeavour and the STS-87 Columbia missions.

Your r�sum� now has terms in it like Spartan satellite, U.S. Microgravity Payload flight, and Space Station assembly.

Captain Scott went on to explain that he had always wanted to be an astronaut but didn't think he had the qualifications. He admonished himself because he usually sees himself from the perspective of what he can do, instead of what he cannot do.

His family and friends joined in the admonishment and encouraged him to apply. He did. Eighteen months and 3,000 applicants later, Winston Scott was selected to be a NASA astronaut.

Yes, getting to know NASA astronaut Captain Winston Scott really was like being in class with your favorite teacher and having a conversation with your best friend at the same time. You walk away believing that you can achieve anything – that you can dream big.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her columns have won first-place national and state awards in The National Federation of Press Women competitions. Most recently, Damon's writing took second place statewide in the South Dakota Press Women 2007 Competition. For more information, e-mail

� 2007 Paula Damon

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