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'If I can do it, so can you,' astronaut tells kids

Staff writer

NASA astronaut Tyler “Nick” Hague has a message for students at Peabody-Burns Elementary School.

“I’m tickled at going back to Peabody,” Hague said Monday. “I could look kids in the eye and go, ‘Hey, I was sitting in that chair, and if I can do it, so can you.’”

Hague attended Peabody-Burns from 1982 to 1989 while his father, Don Hague, was principal. His family then moved to Hoxie, where he graduated from high school.

“We’ve still got lots of friends and family that are in the area,” he said.

People who couldn’t physically make it for Hague’s launch to the international space station in 2019 had a watch party in Peabody.

Hague became interested in engineering in elementary school.

“I liked to break things and put them back together,” he said.

He further developed his interest in the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he received a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering. He joined NASA in 2013, graduating candidate training in 2015.

Hague is the fourth astronaut from Kansas and the only active one.

“Even though you’re not born in Kansas, you can still go to school there,” he said. “I think there’s a few Jayhawks running around our corps.”

Hague is not the only astronaut in his class to come from a rural area. He mentioned people in his class who were from rural Maine and eastern Washington State.

“One of the things that I think was a huge opportunity to me was coming from a rural community, because it was so small,” he said. “I had the opportunity to play football and basketball and track, and do debate and forensics. When you go to a larger school, a lot of the time the kids can do only one or two things.”

A lack of light pollution also helped inspire his career.

“There’s something pretty inspiring about seeing a sky full of stars at night,” he said. “From orbit, you can see even more. It’s amazing how much stuff is out there.”

His visits to Kansas after coming down from six months in space were intended for 2020. The pandemic delayed things.

“I was supposed to be making all these same visits two years ago,” he said. “When we finish a mission, after the rehabilitation is over and we’re back to 100%, its part of the job. I have the opportunity to make them now.”

He has been able to speak to Peabody-Burns Elementary students before: when the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson invited students from Peabody, Hoxie, and other towns to view a live stream with him while he was on the international space station.

“It was fun to demonstrate weightlessness for all the students,” he said.

As an engineer, he performed several long-running experiments in space. Some weren’t his own.

“I’m fortunate to be the hands and the eyes and the ears for the science team on the ground,” he said. “That Ph.D. candidate or that whole research team may have been working on it for 10 years, and I get to be the one to do that experiment. It’s pretty cool to hear them on the radio, seeing something they’ve been trying to prove for 10 years, and hearing them laughing and celebrating.”

Hague also got to channel some Kansas spirit by growing crops in space.

“It was some of the most rewarding stuff, because with most science experiments, you don’t want to eat what you’re growing,” he said. “In this case, it was nice to have fresh salad and fruits and vegetables to augment the stuff in packages.”

Hague wants to inspire as well as educate his audience.

“Whatever thing that keeps you going, find it, and then pursue it,” he said. “For me, it was engineering and space exploration, but it could be something different for another kid. Whatever it is, if you apply yourself and put in the hard work, and you’re willing to reach and ask for help if you stumble — because we all stumble — if you put in the work, you can make it happen.”

Hague is designing and testing equipment meant for NASA’s Artemis missions, which will include the first crewed moon landing since Apollo 17 in 1972.

Last modified April 7, 2022

 

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