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Students interview alum Colonel Vande Hei from International Space Station

Ginny Lyons
Student listen intently to what Colonel Vande Hei has to say about becoming an astronaut.

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On November 28 in the BSM Moore Library, 75 students, faculty , alumni, and others gathered to participate in a downlink with Astronaut Colonel Mark Vande Hei–– alumni of the BSM Class of ’85.

Because NASA had strict limitations on how many people could participate in the event, the administration decided who would attend. Other than students, Colonel Vande Hei’s parents and some community members were there. “They are very protective of his time and how he communicates, and with what he communicates,” Director of Learning and Technology Stephen Pohlen said.

Over the half-an-hour long interview, students asked questions of Colonel Vande Hei focusing on the topics of his path to becoming an astronaut, experiments he’s performed, politics in space, and his experience in space so far.

The most important thing I took away was that if you work hard and apply yourself you can do whatever you want.”

— Teigan Blaine

Colonel Vande Hei launched in September, and he is coming back in February. While in the International Space Station, he has participated in numerous experiments with NASA like MAXI (Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image), HDEV (High Definition Earth Viewing), and HET-Smartphone (Human Exploration Telerobotics Smartphone).

In order to make this event happen BSM had to have multiple conversations with NASA over the last several months. To participate in the actual interview with Colonel Vande Hei, BSM linked to NASA using a web camera and speakerphone, and from there NASA connected to Colonel Vande Hei in the Space Station. “We linked to NASA, and NASA linked to him, so it’s not directly from us to him,” Pohlen said.

BSM was excited to be able to provide this opportunity to the students. “Anytime you have students connect with the outside world, there’s an opportunity for inspiration, career exploration, and understanding how academics fit into what your future may look like,” Pohlen said.

After the event, students reflected on the advice and knowledge they gained from Colonel Vande Hei. “The most important thing I took away was that if you work hard and apply yourself you can do whatever you want,” seventh grade student Teigan Blaine said.

“I got to learn more about what being an astronaut is really like, and how real exploration is, and being connected to that was really cool,” junior Maya Argenta said.

“It was pretty interesting, I learned a lot [but some of it] kind of flew over my head, no pun intended,” sophomore Ronan Brew said.

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Students interview alum Colonel Vande Hei from International Space Station