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Former astronaut tells Winfield Elementary third graders about the ‘coolest job in the world’

A former astronaut landed in a Winfield Elementary School virtual classroom Friday morning to share his first-hand experience of space.

The third grade classes joined a Google Meet where virtual and in-person students tuned in for a presentation by Kent Rominger, vice president of Northrop Grumman’s Strategic Programs and former NASA astronaut. They were already learning about space, flying, Earth and the different planets, but received a first-person account from someone who has experienced it.

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Kent Rominger, a former astronaut, shares his experiences in space with third grade classes at Winfield Elementary School.
Kent Rominger, a former astronaut, shares his experiences in space with third grade classes at Winfield Elementary School.

His visit was arranged by Jena Ehmann, an ELA specialist at the school and Carroll County Public Schools reigning teacher of the year. During the introduction, Ehmann said Rominger became an astronaut in 1992. He made five space shuttle flights and was the mission commander for two of them.

“That means he was in charge,” Ehmann told more than 60 people tuned in on Friday.

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After he was a Navy pilot, he traveled for more than 1,600 hours as an astronaut, more than 27 million miles and is now part of the astronaut Hall of Fame.

“I think it is the coolest job in the world,” Rominger said.

Space shuttle Discovery mission commander Kent Rominger, right foreground and mission specialist Tamara Jernigan, foreground left lead astronauts as they walk out of crew quarters May 27 on their way to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. From left, Canadian Julie Payette, Russian Valery Tokarev, Ellen Ochoa, Daniel Barry, and pilot Rick Husband. The flight of STS-96 is the second shuttle mission supporting the International Space Station. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Space shuttle Discovery mission commander Kent Rominger, right foreground and mission specialist Tamara Jernigan, foreground left lead astronauts as they walk out of crew quarters May 27 on their way to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center, Fla. From left, Canadian Julie Payette, Russian Valery Tokarev, Ellen Ochoa, Daniel Barry, and pilot Rick Husband. The flight of STS-96 is the second shuttle mission supporting the International Space Station. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

He told students that it takes going to college and studying math or science to be an astronaut.

During his presentation, he showed a picture of his fourth space shuttle flight and told the classes it flies 17,000 mph and it takes only 8.5 minutes to reach space. When he flew aircrafts for the Navy they were a bit slower, at 1,400 mph — although they were still moving at twice the speed of sound.

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When Rominger reached space, he said he could look down and see the Red Sea, Nile River and New York City. And he had the pictures to prove it.

“It’s one of the beautiful-est things I’ve done in my life,” he said.

Some of the differences between Earth and space that he pointed out to students is the gravity. They have to tie down their sleeping bags and drink out of a pouch instead of a cup so it doesn’t float away. They also have to exercise because they do not use their muscles.

US space shuttle Endeavour crewmembers Mission Specialist Italian Umberto Guidoni (L) and Commander US Kent Rominger (R) take stock 26 April 2001 in the Italian built Raffaello multipurpose logistics module temporarly attached to The International Space Station. The shuttle and her seven person international crew have been docked for joint operations with the station's Expedition 2 crew delivering supplies and installing the Canada Arm 2. AFP PHOTO ORG XMIT: KSC01V
US space shuttle Endeavour crewmembers Mission Specialist Italian Umberto Guidoni (L) and Commander US Kent Rominger (R) take stock 26 April 2001 in the Italian built Raffaello multipurpose logistics module temporarly attached to The International Space Station. The shuttle and her seven person international crew have been docked for joint operations with the station's Expedition 2 crew delivering supplies and installing the Canada Arm 2. AFP PHOTO ORG XMIT: KSC01V (NASA VIDEO/AFP)

He also showed pictures of the Aurora lights and the International Space Station.

“I was the first commander to dock with the International Space Station back when it was very tiny,” he told students.

He said they lived there for a little over a week and the rooms for astronauts were bigger than rooms seen in typical houses.

Rominger said it was not only important to work as a team but to have fun. He said they work better when there’s fun involved, and he once convinced his teammates to all wear Hawaiian shirts and have a luau so they could get to know one another better.

“If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right,” he said.

Before Rominger shared videos of a space launch and how they land, he took questions from the students.

Some of the questions included “have you been to the moon?” “have you been to Mars?” and “have you ever seen the sun in space?”

Rominger said he has not been to the moon but he always wanted to go. NASA had a goal to go back by 2024, he said, though it may be too ambitious. He did add that it could happen again by the time the third graders are in high school. It’s about a three-day trip and a 60-pound person would weigh 10 pounds on the moon.

He also hasn’t been to Mars but noted a rocket is being built to take people there. He has, however, seen the sun, plenty of times.

When he was in space, Rominger said they could go around the entire Earth in an hour and a half, and the 45 minutes they have between daylight and nighttime allowed him to see a lot of sunrises and sunsets.

Rominger said he wants to encourage students to also be interested in becoming an astronaut. When Ehmann asked the class who would be interested, a bunch of hands shot into the air.

Pilot Kent Rominger floats through a tunnel connecting Columbia's cabin with its spacelab. The photo was taked aboard the space shuttle using an electronic still camera and released by NASA Saturday, Oct. 28, 1995.(AP Photo/NASA HO) ORG XMIT: HTN102
Pilot Kent Rominger floats through a tunnel connecting Columbia's cabin with its spacelab. The photo was taked aboard the space shuttle using an electronic still camera and released by NASA Saturday, Oct. 28, 1995.(AP Photo/NASA HO) ORG XMIT: HTN102 (NASA HANDOUT/Associated Press)

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