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Published: Thursday, 11/7/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Astronaut gets star treatment

Students experience his out-of-this-world experiences

BY VANESSA McCRAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough gets a hug from kindergartner Mavric Smith as he speaks with fifth-grader Heather Shiffler, left, fifth-grader Jada Callahan, center, and others at Discovery Academy. Astronaut Shane Kimbrough gets a hug from kindergartner Mavric Smith as he speaks with fifth-grader Heather Shiffler, left, fifth-grader Jada Callahan, center, and others at Discovery Academy.
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How in the world, a student at Discovery Academy wanted to know, does an astronaut eat in space?

It’s not every day there’s an actual astronaut at-the-ready to satisfy such culinary curiosities, but on Wednesday, U.S. Army Col. and NASA astronaut Shane Kimbrough visited the Toledo charter school and answered questions launched by an audience of about 100 eager youngsters.

Colonel Kimbrough, a 1989 West Point graduate who flew the “coolest, baddest helicopter in the world” (the Apache, for those not in the know), was chosen as an astronaut candidate in 2004 and about four years later completed two spacewalks while on a mission to the International Space Station aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

But, back to supper in space. How do you do it, one student wanted to know.

The answer: “Very carefully.”

Eating, if you’re not organized, can be messy, Colonel Kimbrough said. It’s also more fun than gravity-bound chowing down. Kool-Aid can be made into a nearly basketball-sized orb of red-hued refreshment that sits in front of you. Anyone who wanted a drink could fly over and take a sip.

Which pretty much answers another student’s pressing question: Is it fun going to space?

“It’s crazy fun. I mean it’s unbelievable. So just imagine if you guys were all floating around right now,” Colonel Kimbrough said.

His visit to Discovery Academy and a couple other area sites was organized by Kids Unlimited, a Toledo-based after-school and summer program. Colonel Kimbrough, who lives in Houston, was invited to Toledo by Bob Oehlers, a West Point classmate and a local supporter of the program.

Colonel Kimbrough cruised through other queries and described launching into space as something like the “best roller-coaster ride ever.”

After talking for about half an hour, students swarmed him for autographs, hugs, and photographs.

“It’s cool because we had an astronaut come and see us,” said first-grader Dashiel Reece, 7, as he clutched a patch — a gift from the special guest — that he plans to hang in his room.

Second-grader Sincere Richardson, 7, liked learning about the planets and space.

Dashiel’s brother Evan Reece, 10, enjoyed the visit too, but he isn’t ready for space. He’s concerned his helmet could break open.

Some schoolmates appeared more willing. Looking out at the youngsters, Colonel Kimbrough challenged the next generation.

“Maybe some of you folks will be the first ones to go to Mars. Who’s up for that? Anybody?”

A smattering of hands rocketed upward.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6056, or on Twitter @vanmccray.



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