NASA lands astronaut at Maxwell Elementary
By Senior Airman Tammie Ramsouer, 42nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 25, 2016
MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. -- In a letter to NASA, fifth grader Evelyn Nelson said she wants to motivate her fellow classmates at Maxwell Elementary School to become inspired to study space and strive do their best. NASA Decided to help.
Thousands of letters like Evelyn's pour into NASA daily from others like her hoping to meet or speak to a real astronaut. When Evelyn's letter arrived at NASA, along with several of her classmate's, one particular astronaut took notice.
"I receive a lot of letters all the time from students all over," said Air Force Lt. Col. Tyler Hague, NASA astronaut. "A lot of times those letters are just asking me for my autograph or get a picture of me. The letters I received from the Maxwell Elementary School were different."
One of the fifth grade classes at the school has been learning about space during the science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, course. Their teacher noticed how inspired they were and decided to take action.
"With a team effort, my students and I wrote to NASA," said Krisitne Karter, Maxwell Elementary School fifth grade teacher.
In their own words, the students wrote letters about how great they think space is and what an honor it would be for them to meet an actual astronaut.
"It was pretty important to us to have an astronaut visit us, because he have been working on the STEM project all year about Mars," said Evelyn. "We thought it would be really cool to have an astronaut talk to us."
Their hard work paid off. The week before spring break, Karter received word from NASA that they would send an astronaut to visit them.
"I thought it was great that these kids expressed how important it would be to have a chance to talk to an astronaut and learn something," Hague said.
Hague's admiration of the students' ambition to further their education in space and space exploration inspired him to visit the students, he said.
Although Hague hasn't been to space yet, he spoke to the students about becoming an astronaut and showing them what astronauts have to face while in space.
"I started by looking up at the night sky," Hague said. "I was surrounded by nothing but countryside so I could see the Milky Way and billions of stars, and to me that represented all the stuff humans didn't know. I wanted to explore and find new things, and that is what got me motivated and interested in space."
Hague worked tirelessly in his studies that, which eventually bring him to join the Air Force and attend the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
"My first ride was in an F-15 fighter jet. After that, I knew I wanted to fly," Hague said.
But Hague faced an obstacle. His vision didn't meet the rigorous standards for Air Force pilots.
"At the time, my eyes were not good enough to be a pilot, but then I thought, 'Maybe I could be an engineer,'" Hague said. "I didn't give up. I figured out another way to get involved with flight."
He became a flight engineer and eventually, through surgery, corrected his vision enough to qualify for NASA duty as an astronaut.
The message he left the students with was to always try their hardest and eventually they could possibly make their dreams a reality.
"My message to these kids was to never give up," Hague said. "It's not always going to be easy. Some things can be really challenging but you just have to keep working at it and you don't know what you are capable of accomplishing."
"It really shows that with hard work and determination, your dreams can come true and it truly did for my students," Karter said.