Launch time: Astronaut’s inspiring tale of ‘Endurance’

Space enthusiasts left the Waxlax Center for the Performing Arts at Saint Edward’s School last Wednesday evening envisioning rocket launches and trips to Mars after an inspiring evening spent listening to retired astronaut Capt. Scott Kelly, author of “Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery.”

Kelly commanded the International Space Station on three expeditions, including as a member of the year-long ISS mission, setting the record for the longest space mission by an American astronaut. A former military fighter pilot, test pilot, engineer and retired U.S. Navy Captain, Kelly clearly had “the right stuff,” overcoming learning difficulties to accomplish what most could only ever dream of doing.

The audience ranged from children young enough to imagine that their cardboard rockets could propel them into outer space, to adults who watched as Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon.

Les Bromwell said he was interested to learn about the progress that has been made since his days working with the original Apollo 11 missions.

“I was part of a lunar sciences team. We devised experiments and equipment, trained astronauts and tested the material,” recalled Bromwell. “It was a fantastic time, but pretty primitive when you look at the kind of equipment they have today.”

Kelly related that when he and twin brother Mark (retired astronaut Capt. Mark Kelly, married to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords) were eighth-graders, their father sat them down and said that based on their academic abilities, they should both consider trade school.

From then on, Mark Kelly made a concerted effort to get straight As, but it wasn’t until he was in college that Scott Kelly found something he was passionate enough about to overcome his learning challenges — by happenstance picking up a copy of “The Right Stuff” by Tom Wolfe.

“I felt like I had something in common with them, with the exception of one thing,” said Kelly. “I couldn’t pay attention in class. If I could solve that problem, maybe I could be like them someday. The book was the spark for me to get me moving in a different direction. Fast-forward 18 years and that boy was the first American in his class of 35 Americans to fly in space.”

Leaving the crowd with much to ponder, he shared that if an international partnership with 15 countries could build a million-pound structure while orbiting Earth at 17,500 mph in a vacuum, we can also go to Mars, cure cancer and fix the environment.

“I was absolutely inspired after spending a year in space that if we can dream it, we can do it.”

As the audience exited the building, signed copies of “Endurance” in hand, the chatter ranged from amazement over the space travel details Kelly shared, to a newfound motivation to “shoot for the stars.”

Cynthia Falardeau attending with her family, sheepishly admitted that while they are all “huge space fanatics,” her own obsession began during childhood, adding, “I don’t know how you couldn’t be enthralled with space. I even had my very own space boots.”

Paige and Rusty Rhymes both found Kelly’s story inspiring, but were on opposite sides of the universe regarding their desire to join the ranks of space travelers.

“I think his story is fascinating. It’s an American dream and resonates with our whole generation. You can do anything if you put your mind to it,” said Rusty Rhymes. His wife agreed, adding, “I don’t want to go to space, but I loved the message ‘you can do anything.’”

Signed copies of “Endurance” and Kelly’s children’s book, “My Journey to the Stars,” are available at the Vero Beach Book Center.     

Photos by: Denise Ritchie

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