By Susan Carroll
It was a conversation of astronomical proportions for 150 Lake Orion High School students on April 17 when they got to speak with two astronauts currently aboard the International Space Station.
Lake Orion Community Schools and Oakland Community College co-hosted the special event at OCC’s Auburn Hills Campus, with NASA astronaut and alum of both schools, Andrew (Drew) Feustel. Joining Feustel, a 1983 LOHS graduate, for the NASA-sanctioned live stream was astronaut Ricky Arnold.
Lake Orion students got to ask questions, with the astronauts answering and relating their experiences aboard the space station.
“How have college experiences, work and life experience and career choices translated into becoming a NASA astronaut?” asked Oliver Yu, Lake Orion High School junior, who aspires to be an astronaut himself someday.
“The key is you have to decide for yourself what it is that you want to do and that is what I did early on,” said Feustel.
Feustel is currently the commander on the International Space Station, expedition 56. A select group of LOHS students were invited to participate in a live feed from the space station, while others worldwide were able to watch on the web.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for all of us. You are a role model and demonstrate to us that you can do whatever you dream of,” said Lake Orion Schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis as she addressed the astronauts.
Feustel and Arnold are aboard the space station with Russian Cosmonaut Oleg Artemyev. Feustel’s scheduled to return to Earth in August.
During the 20-minute live feed, students from both OCC and LOHS asked the American astronauts questions such as, “How did your time as a LOHS Dragon help prepare you for this mission? What classes should I take now if I want to be an astronaut? How is sleeping in space – is it difficult to adapt your sleep? What is the greatest and possibly most challenging aspect of being on the International Space Station? and What is your solution to overcome this obstacle?”
“There are challenges, we have prepared for this so long. One challenge is being away from your loved ones,” said Feustel. “I realized early on from my time there that if I wanted to achieve fantastic goals, like wanting to become an astronaut, that I needed to do better and it set me up for success.”
Feustel received his Associate in Science degree from OCC and his Bachelor of Science in Solid Earth Sciences and a Master of Science in Geophysics, both from Purdue University.
He has a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences, specializing in Seismology, from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.
Feustel was inducted as one of the inaugural Wall of Excellence recipients at LOHS in 2017.
“Best of luck in all that you endeavor to do,” signed off Feustel as he and Arnold floated out of sight
According to his bio, his NASA experience started when he was selected as an astronaut in July 2000 at the Johnson Space Center. His training included five weeks of T-34 flight school at Naval Air Station VT-4, Pensacola, Florida. Following the completion of two years of evaluation, he was assigned technical duties in the Astronaut Office Space Shuttle and Space Station Branches.
Feustel is qualified as a space shuttle and space station robotic arm operator, CAPCOM, and instructor astronaut for EVA training at the Neutral Bouyancy Laboratory.
He has participated in many of NASA’s astronaut training activities including: field medical training, field maintenance training, NEEMO X in the Aquarius Habitat in Key Largo, Florida; CAVES in Sardinia, Italy; NOLS in Alaska and Mexico; winter survival training with the Canadian Armed Forces in Valcartier, Quebec; Desert Rats in Flagstaff, Arizona; Geotechnical Studies, Dry Valleys, Antarctica; and deepworker submersible pilot training, Vancouver, British Columbia.
He served on the crew of STS-125, the final space shuttle mission to the Hubble Space Telescope and he also launched on Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final mission to the International Space Station on STS-134.