You can’t have an Astronaut Training Experience without a real live astronaut. After checking in for the attraction and reading who I’d meet, I was excited to learn Sam Durrance flew on an Endeavour (the first space shuttle launch I’ve seen) mission (STS-67) with his first space shuttle mission being Columbia (STS-35). He says he’s a scientist first and was selected for the missions because he worked on the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope. Durrance was very nice, soft spoken and reminded me of my college professors. (I have a science degree, remember?)
His genuine passion and excitement for space exploration shined as he spoke. Dr. Durrance said the first couple of days in space he focused on work duties and it wasn’t until he snapped a photograph of the telescope with Earth in the background that he slowed down to appreciate he was somewhere only a select few have been.
This reminded me a bit of traveling for business to a groovy city, being cooped up in a windowless ballroom and never having a chance to experience anything other than hotel food and the drive between the meeting site and airport.
Dr. Durrance has logged more than 615 hours in space and teaches physics, comparative planetology and astrobiology courses and directs graduate student research at Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla.
The more I learn about individual astronauts the more I realize they’re just like everyone else (dare I say, “down to Earth”?) and represent a diverse group of people. I also try to absorb their passion, energy and perseverance.
Astronaut Training Experience
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex