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Astronauts land on campus

October 26, 2011

Do you find inspiration in a library?  Astronaut Paul Richards did.  At today's Dragons of the Space Shuttle Era event, Paul Richards '89 explained that he prepared himself to become an astronaut while at Drexel not just by studying mechanical engineering but also reading biographies of astronauts on microfiche here in Hagerty Library. 

Mr. Richards fulfilled the dream he first had while watching the Apollo 14 launch in kindergarten in May 2001 when he become the 400th human in space.  Richards and fellow astronaut Chris Ferguson '83 shared these and other stories today in Drexel's Mitchell Auditorium.  The astronauts answered questions from moderator Terry Ruggles and from the audience, including these highlights: Asked if piloting the Space Shuttle was like flying a brick, Ferguson answered, 'You can make a brick fly if you put a big enough engine on it. That's what we've done with the space shuttle.'

Asked about his spacewalk, Richards answered, 'It's a misnomer to say you walk. You move with your fingertips and your hands. If your feet are moving, you're probably kicking something that shouldn't be kicked.'

Asked about the future of the space program, Richards answered that the moon should be our next target. He dismissed the 'been there, done that' attitude, explaining that the moon landing in 1969 was comparable to Columbus's 1492 landing in the new world; whereas a permanent base on the moon would be like the 1620 settlement at Jamestown -- wholly different.

Chris Ferguson shared his enthusiasm for the upcoming launch of the Mars Science Laboratory and encouraged attendees to watch the video simulation of the MSL's landing on the surface of Mars, which is scheduled for August 2012. Perhaps a whole new generation of Drexel students will be inspired by explorations of Mars and the moon, as Ferguson and Richards were in the 1980s.

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