Student looks up to space-based dad

From left to right, Kaitlyn Kimbrough, Shane Kimbrough, Taylor Kimbrough, and Zack Kimbrough stand at the Space Station Mock Up in Houston. Photo credit: Courtesy photo

By Bailey Brammer | Staff Writer

In elementary school, career day means bringing your mom or dad into class and listening to other classmates’ parents talk about what it means to own a business or practice law or be a dentist.

For Clear Lake freshman Kaitlyn Kimbrough, however, there was always the possibility that her dad could not attend career day because he would be away on business in space.

Kaitlyn Kimbrough is the daughter of NASA astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough, who took off in a Soyuz spacecraft along with two Russian cosmonauts on Oct. 19. The spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, and the crew is not scheduled to return to Earth until late February.

“It’s hard knowing he’ll be gone for the holidays, because that’s the time of year when we get together with extended family and celebrate,” Kaitlyn Kimbrough said. “We do have the ability to talk on the phone, email and FaceTime him while he is in space, which makes it easier.”

According to the NASA website, Shane Kimbrough and his crew has joined three other crew members at the ISS and will be performing hundreds of experiments and investigations in biology, biotechnology, physical science and Earth science.

Shane Kimbrough was also a part of space shuttle mission STS-126 in 2008, in which he took two spacewalks for a total of 12 hours and 52 minutes outside the ISS.

While Kaitlyn Kimbrough grew up with a father whose occupation is rare, she does not believe that this makes her family unique from anyone else’s.

“I don’t think we’re that different,” Kaitlyn Kimbrough said. “I do believe we are a very patriotic family and we care about our country very much, but I think that comes from my dad being in the military for 25 years.”

Shane Kimbrough, a retired army colonel, graduated from the U.S. Military Academy and Georgia Institute of Technology, according to NASA’s website. Kimbrough’s career as an astronaut began in 2004.

For over 15 years, humans have been living on board the ISS, according to PR Newswire. Shane Kimbrough will join the ranks of more than 200 others from 18 different countries that have been a part of the ongoing experiments and developments in space, which occur in a microgravity laboratory.

In the Kimbroughs’ hometown of Clear Lake, it is not uncommon to be employed by NASA, as this is where the Johnson Space Center is located. Clear Lake freshman Bethany Warner said many of her classmates in high school had parents that were involved with NASA in one way or another.

“You’re just walking around school, and it’s totally normal for someone to say, ‘Oh, my dad’s an astronaut,’” Warner said. “But I can’t imagine my dad missing Christmas or my birthday because he’s in space. That would really scare me.”

Although Kaitlyn Kimbrough believes becoming an astronaut is an extraordinary career, she plans to take her own path in life. Instead, she is majoring in biology and is on track to become a physician’s assistant.

“I don’t want to follow in my father’s footsteps,” Kaitlyn Kimbrough said. “I believe I’m meant to work in a different field. Even though it’s a very unique and amazing occupation, it requires a lot of physical and mental strength. The job is definitely not for everyone.”

Regardless of the career Kaitlyn Kimbrough has chosen to pursue, her father taught her from a young age that she can follow her dreams, even if the odds are against her.

“As a child, my dad always wanted to be an astronaut, but it seemed very unlikely because of how few astronauts there are,” Kaitlyn Kimbrough said. “Seeing that he was able to persevere and accomplish his dreams no matter the challenges or obstacles he faced is really inspiring. It taught me that dreams really do come true.”