On Tuesday, December 6, Kansas students will have the opportunity to meet Commander John B. Herrington, Chickasaw, at the Cosmosphere. Commander Herrington is a former NASA astronaut and author of children’s books who comes to Hutch to educate young space enthusiasts.
At 10 a.m., Herrington will teach students from districts in Cosmosphere’s LaunchLearning program about the process of naming stars and planets, and how names can express culture. At 1:30 PM, Herrington sits down with 3rd grade LaunchLearning students for a very special story where he combines culture, space, and education into one wholesome experience. He will read from his own book for young children, “Mission to Space”, published by Chickasaw Press.
“Mission to Space was written to give children a photographic glimpse into my childhood and my journey to the International Space Station. I often share stories about some images in the book that are not described in the story. I hope children can see themselves on the journey and recognize that their dreams can come true if they believe in the possibilities and trust people in their lives who encourage them to follow their dreams. The book also provides English-to-Chickasaw vocabulary that matches the words in the text, Herrington said.
Herrington and Cosmosphere staff will also submit a video entry for an International Astronomical Union contest to name a star and planet significant to Chickasaw culture. Herrington is from a federally recognized tribe known as the Chickasaw Nation.
Twenty years ago, Herrington launched aboard STS-113, the sixteenth space shuttle mission to the International Space Station. This mission made him the first native NASA astronaut to fly to space.
“We are excited about this program because it really offers a unique opportunity. Every few years, the International Astronomical Union, or IAU, gives people around the world the opportunity to name exoplanets and their host stars, and submitting a naming proposal is one of the objectives of our event,” said Nicholas Atanasio, Cosmosphere’s LaunchLearning Project Leader.”Exoplanets are endlessly fascinating, and by participating in the naming contest we can give young people who come to the event the opportunity to learn more about exoplanets and the potential for other worlds and perhaps even life beyond our own solar system.”
Children don’t meet an astronaut every day. It’s not uncommon to hear a child say, “When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut!”
Herrington’s experiences and teachings help children realize the capacity of their dreams and prove that such aspirations are possible with the right application of courage and knowledge.
“I hope that my achievements in the astronaut corps are a motivation for Indigenous children to achieve something they can only dream of. Whether that be an astronaut, engineer or scientist. Dreams come true, but it takes positive mentors, motivation and dedication to reach a goal,” said Herrington.
Commander Herrington will sign copies of his book “Mission to Space”, which will be available for purchase in the Cosmosphere gift shop. His book reading will be streamed live so that LaunchLearning and non-LaunchLearning classrooms can watch his story time.
Already an exciting and adventurous experience, the Cosmosphere will now provide an unforgettable experience as children participate in Herrington’s classes. Whether studying rocketry up close or watching out-of-the-ordinary documentaries at the Carey Digital Dome Theater, one of Hutchinson’s greatest attractions brings joy to children and their families and creates pathways to the dreams children seek.