As personable as he is courageous, Winston Scott, retired U.S. Navy captain and former NASA astronaut, kept his audience rapt with attention at a luncheon last Friday afternoon at the Vero Beach Yacht Club, hosted by the Indian River Chapter of Military Officers Association of America.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan association is open to current, former and retired officers of all branches of service, their spouses and surviving spouses. The group meets monthly, except in July and August, for camaraderie and engaging programs. Members also award ROTC scholarships, provide support to active service members and veterans, and participate in such community events as the Vero Beach Air Show and Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary ceremonies.
“Our Indian River Chapter was awarded the MOAA Five-Star Level of Excellence Award for the year 2018,” said Bob Albrecht, board president, adding that just 136 chapters out of all those nationwide received the honor.
Albrecht also informed that the National MOAA provided the chapter with a $5,000 grant for a Military Families Initiative, which they have committed toward a project of the Veterans Council’s Veterans Helping Veterans program, to replace windows in the home of a local, disabled Marine Corps veteran.
Introducing the guest speaker, Terry Treat said, “Let’s put Capt. Scott’s space experience into perspective.”
He noted that since 1961, when Russian astronaut Yuri Gagarin first orbited the earth, only 536 people have gone into space. “That is one in 14 million of the world’s current population of 7.7 billion,” said Treat, adding that of that number only 226 astronauts have done spacewalks.
Born in Miami, Scott has logged more than 7,000 hours in 25 different types of military and civilian aircraft, and as a NASA mission specialist, served nine days on Endeavour and 16 days on Columbia; making three spacewalks totaling almost 20 hours.
“I’m especially excited about speaking to groups like MOAA,” said Scott, a Cape Canaveral Chapter member, adding that he considers his decision to enter active duty service “the smartest thing I ever did. Had it not been for my time on active duty, I don’t think I would have had the career or the opportunity to do the things that I have been able to do.”
Scott captivated the group with slides and stories of training, launches, space suits, meals, experiences in space, such as the successful capture – by hand – of a 3,000-pound errant satellite, and the fellowship of the international crews.
“Everything we do in space nowadays is international, and my crews were international as well,” said Scott. “It’s governments that can’t get along; people get along just fine. The space program is a great vehicle, I think, to bring international bodies together and just set an example for the rest of the world.”
Commenting that seeing earth from that special vantage point puts things into a whole new perspective, he added, “I turn on the news down here every day and there’s nothing but turmoil. But when you see it from up there, it is so quiet and so peaceful. And maybe one of these days we’ll get to that point here on earth.”