NASA astronaut shares space stories

Story by Brooke Hill | Staff Writer, Video by Jessica Babb | Broadcast Managing Editor

Gasps were heard around the room as students were presented with a photo of Waco from 400 kilometers above the Earth. The paw shape of the Baylor Sciences Building and the McLane Student Life Center were clearly visible all the way from outer space.

Friday afternoon, NASA astronaut Robert Shane Kimbrough shared his stories about being commander of the International Space Station for six months this past year. Kimbrough’s daughter, Kaitlyn Kimbrough, is a sophomore at Baylor.

Kimbrough showed students a 14-minute video containing highlights from his mission, including clips of them working out, attempting to eat Jell-O, researching and even the arrival of a package from the NFL containing a football jersey from every team with the name “NASA” on the backs of the jerseys to ensure that they’d be fully equipped to root for whichever team ended up in the Super Bowl.

Kimbrough said that one of the most humbling things about being in space is being able to see Earth from a perspective that not many get the chance to see.

“When you look back on planet earth from space, it’s very serene … it looks so peaceful from that perspective,” Kimbrough said. “You don’t see borders, you don’t see wars, you don’t see just the stress of daily life that I know is going on down here in everybody’s life, so [it’s] just a cool perspective to have. Wow, if we could ever get that way back down on Earth the same way we see it from space, this world would be a much better place.”

Kimbrough mentioned NASA’s push to get to Mars in the near future and emphasized that the younger generation will be the one inventing the technology necessary to make that dream come true.

“We’re gonna get there,” Kimbrough said. “That’s what’s exciting … we’ve got to get your generation fired up about stuff like this. You guys are way brighter than we ever were. We need your brains, we need your smarts, we need your intelligence to help us get to a place like Mars, which is really really challenging.”

Kimbrough even took the time to do a videoconference with Baylor students and professors last year from the International Space Station.

“It was a morale booster for me just to kind of get to interact with the youth and feel the energy in the room,” Kimbrough said. “We had great questions and answers and I just shared with them what I was going through for real, so they got to see me floating around and upside down and that was completely normal to me, but it was kind of cool to them. It’s just neat anytime you can connect with college students and potentially inspire them to do something they didn’t think they could do.”

Following his presentation, Kimbrough took questions from students for a little over half an hour. Kimbrough stayed to sign autographs and take pictures once the presentation was over.

“You know when the largest room in the BSB is full on a Friday, it’s something special,” said Dallas sophomore Savannah Bass. “It’s cool that he’s saying not that someone could, but that someone will go to Mars, from our generation.”

Kimbrough will be presented at the Baylor vs. Texas football game Saturday.

Kimbrough was selected by NASA in 2004 and completed his first spaceflight in 2008, where he spent almost 16 days on the mission to expand the crew living quarters to accommodate a six-member crew. During the mission, he performed two spacewalks. Kimbrough earned a Master of Science degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Before being selected as an astronaut, Kimbrough joined NASA in 2000 as a Flight Simulation Engineer on the Shuttle Training Aircraft. Kimbrough flew on the Expedition 49/50 mission, where he performed four spacewalks, and has now logged in a total of 189 days in space, according to the NASA website.