AURORA — Not every 10-year-old boy can say he got a thumbs-up from a general.
But Chase Parker can, after getting one from David Stringer, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general and now director of NASA’s Plum Brook Station in Sandusky.
The general had asked the dozens of children and adults in an audience at the Aurora Memorial Library June 11 if anyone knew what NASA stands for.
“National Aeronautics and Space Administration,” said Chase.
Stringer and Lori Manthey, chief of staff in the director’s office at NASA Glenn Research Center, were speaking to the library’s Summer Reading Club about the space agency’s mission and its plans to return to the moon and eventually to Mars.
“We have about 3,000 people at Glenn Research Center, and a number of us will volunteer from time to time to do these [talks],” Stringer said after the presentation.
Glenn develops much of the technology used in NASA missions, while Plum Brook, which is a part of Glenn, is a spacecraft testing facility.
“We show people how citizens’ money is being used,” Stringer said. “Obviously, as NASA folks, we think this is very compelling, but it’s helpful for people paying the bills, as all of us do with taxes, to see what you get for it.”
The presentation included props, a mockup of a spacesuit and a hammock designed to hold astronauts in place when they sleep.
“You will float away of you’re not tethered to something,” said Stringer. “That’s just the way it is.”
Stringer said afterwards that the spacesuit is a “traveling exhibit” used because it is easier to transport than a real suit designed for the weightlessness of space.
“The real one weighs 300 pounds,” he said.
Other props such as a glove worn by astronauts, a pillow and a package of dehydrated macaroni and cheese were passed around.
Several videos were also shown, one featuring astronaut Suni Williams, a Euclid native, giving a tour of the International Space Station and one of astronaut Reid Wiseman in Houston answering a series of rapid-fire questions about what it’s like spending time aboard the station.
Williams’ and Wiseman’s explanation of one necessary feature of life in space elicited some laughs from the audience.
“You see, it’s pretty small — so you have to have pretty good aim to make sure things get let go in the right direction,” said Williams while showing off a “throne” in an “orbital outhouse.”
A third video concerned NASA’s planned return to the moon as a springboard to Mars, with plans to make it a more permanent presence with an orbital space station.
Manthey said the first launch is expected in 2024, with the astronauts to include the first woman to land on the moon.
“That’s only five years from now,” she said. “We’re very excited about that.”
The presentation included an opportunity for questions.
“How often do people get into space?” asked a girl.
“As often as the Soyuz spacecraft [launches]. It’s usually about six months,” said Manthey.
“When do you plan to go to Mars?” asked a boy.
“We plan to go to Mars in the 2030 timeframe,” said Stringer.
It was Chase Parker who had asked when NASA planned on returning to the moon. And at the start of the presentation, Chase showed he knows a few things about space when he was able to answer “100 kilometers” after Stringer asked if anyone knew how far up space begins.
“That’s right. About 60 miles,” said Stringer.
Chase said after the presentation that he thinks he became interested in space from books when he was as young as 2 or 3, and has since read even more. He said he’s thought about becoming an astronaut.
“I have a lot of books about space. It’s interesting,” he said.
Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at 330-541-9431, email@example.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.