‘The Right Stuff’ at the Wright Memorial

By on July 20, 2019

Future astronauts
Tony Cottrell (left) and
Erik Towler of the Outer Banks.
(Michelle Wagner)
NASA Astronaut Eric A. Boe
talked about the possibility
of a manned mission to Mars.
(Michelle Wagner)
This crowd braved the heat wave
to meet and chat with Astronaut Eric A. Boe.
(Michelle Wagner)
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Despite soaring summer temperatures, about 100 people gathered under a tent at the Wright Brothers National Memorial on the afternoon of July 20 to meet and chat with active NASA Astronaut Eric A. Boe during a question-and-answer session that was part of the National Park Service’s 50th anniversary celebration of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The astronaut’s appearance was one highlight in a four-day celebration of the historic lunar landing at the spot where man-made flight was transformed from an idea to a reality almost 116 years ago.

A retired Air Force Fighter Pilot Colonel who has been a NASA astronaut since 2000, Boe has served as a pilot for two NASA missions, one on the Endeavour and most recently, the Discovery during its last mission in February 2011. He and his crewmates are currently working with Boeing to develop their new spacecraft systems.

Part of a six-member crew of the Discovery, which is currently on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., Boe called the shuttle one that “would go down in history as an amazing ship that was way ahead of its time.”

Turning to the anniversary of the moon mission, Boe also told the audience how he recalled watching the Apollo 11 landing on his parent’s black and white television at the age of four. And he reflected on how far space travel has come.

“I don’t know if you heard, but the plan now is to go back to the moon,” he said.  “We are shooting for 2024, and also going beyond the moon and to Mars,” he said. “The time is coming that space flight will become more routine.”

Boe said that he spoke with Neil Armstrong several times before he passed away, and said the famous astronaut has been an inspiration to him.

“He actually didn’t like talking about going to the moon,” Boe told the audience. “He said, ‘That was a real small part of my life.’ He said he was just at the right place, at the right time and on the right mission. To me, that was inspirational.”

Boe fielded questions that ranged from how astronauts sleep while in space and whether you could actually spill something in space, to the progress at the International Space Station and his own predictions of when there will be a human mission to Mars.

Responding to one question about the dark side of the moon, Boe said, “It’s just like the rest of the moon in my mind. It’s a place that we need to explore and take a closer look at.” As for a human mission to Mars, he said, “I think we can go to Mars now, but it’s how much money we want to invest. I hope it happens in my lifetime and think there is a good chance it will.”

This being his first visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Boe told the crowd that he still remembers making a science fair project as a kid where he built a plastic Wright flyer.

“So it’s pretty cool to be here and see the place,” he declared. “I love being here, the birthplace of the power of flight.”

 

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