Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon inspired a generation of kids, like Mark Kelly, to be astronauts. Now an astronaut, engineer and retired U.S. Navy Captain, Kelly hopes to do the same for the next generation.
Kelly spoke at Kingsbury Hall Wednesday night to a sold-out audience of people young and old, some wearing space suits and NASA T-shirts. He answered questions about the possibilities of a future mission to Mars and his experience in space. Sarah George, executive director of the Natural History Museum, led the Q&A before it was turned over to the audience.
Rachel Romero, a sophomore in chemical and nuclear engineering, loved the personal feel of the discussion.
“We had a conversation with an astronaut,” Romero said. “NASA is such a big organization … but when you get someone who has been miles above the atmosphere and done experiments in space and been in zero gravity, it really puts a name to the face.”
Kelly’s twin brother, Scott Kelly, made an appearance in pre-recorded videos from December, when he spoke with students from Glendale Middle School via satellite. Scott Kelly is currently in the International Space Station for a year-long NASA mission to look at the effects zero gravity has on the body.
The so-called “Twin Study” is nearing completion, and Kelly said his brother is looking forward to coming home. Kelly, who has been on four missions to the International Space Station, said leaving the station is a little bittersweet.
“I miss it every day,” he said.
He joked with the audience about flying like Superman in space, and what to do when something breaks on a mission.
“You know what you use when duct tape doesn’t work? More duct tape,” he said.
Kelly also spoke about new technology that is making a trip to Mars more realistic. He told the audience those on the first mission to Mars could be in the room.
“Humans are explorers. We continuously explore and go places and we take on great challenges. A challenge like this would certainly be dangerous for the crew members involved,” Kelly said. “But the return that we would get on that investment would be well worth the money spent.”
Unfortunately, Kelly recognizes that with limited spots in NASA’s space program, it might not be possible for everyone. He spoke about non-government aerospace companies like SpaceX, developing technology that may soon bring everyday people into orbiting destinations.
Six year-old twins David and Aaron Rybarik attended the event and are now set on reaching their own space goal.
“We want to be the first to ride a dirt bike on Mars,” both said in near unison.
The lecture with Mark and Scott Kelly was the kickoff for the museum’s annual lecture series with this year’s theme focused on explorations of the 21st century.