NASA Cmdr. Peggy Whitson paid a visit to Westminster Avenue Elementary School on Saturday as part of the “Train like an Astronaut” program, a NASA initiative to encourage physical fitness and intellectual curiosity among students.
Whitson, who has led two International Space Station missions and was the first female commander of a NASA spaceflight, led students in a series of interactive activities intended to peak interest in the wonders of outer space.
“Our hope is to inspire a new generation of explorers,” said Whitson, who has spent more time in space than any other woman — 377 days.
Whitson also fielded questions about how to walk in space (carefully), the distance from Earth to the moon (238,900 miles), if she wore a jet pack in space (yes) and what inspired her to become an astronaut.
“I was nine years old when I saw the first man walk on the moon. That’s when I wanted to be an astronaut,” she said, referring to Neil Armstrong’s “giant leap” during the 1969 Apollo moon landing.
A team from the Johnson Space Center in Houston chose the school for Whitson’s visit based on a recommendation by the Venice Neighborhood Council that focused on the school’s computer and mathematics magnet program.
— Gary Walker