Reporter's Notebook The Tattoo

Hanging out with an astronaut

Space shuttle launch. (NASA)

BRISTOL, Connecticut, United States — You wouldn’t think that a full-fledged astronaut would have time to talk to a middle school student, but I just had that opportunity.

I had the privilege of interviewing Captain Kenneth Ham and asked him about his 13-day mission to the International Space Station.

While there, he and six others installed the 32,000-pound Japanese mobile lab “Kobe,” which means hope.

Captain Kenneth Ham, astronaut, and Francis Byrne, reporter, (YJI)

Ham, a U.S. Navy pilot who has logged over 5,000 flight hours on over 300 different types of aircraft, visited the Imagine Nation children’s museum.

The museum is very colorful and welcoming, with an ice cream bar and a player piano going right in the lobby, which looked like an atrium.

We proceeded up a spiraling staircase into an ESPN exhibit that allows visitors to sit at replica of the SportsCenter desk and make a recording of themselves playing anchor.

When I first saw Captain Ham, he and his wife, Michelle were in the mock SportsCenter studio, ready to record.

Unfortunately, a sound malfunction forced the Hams to wait until after our interview and their talk in front of students from St. Anthony School, but not before I snapped off a few pictures of the pair in the studio, though.

Once we were done, I reflected on the experience, and realized it was interesting to hear both of them talk about their jobs and how if you studied hard, you could end up working for NASA.

Even though it doesn’t make me want to be an astronaut, the thing I most remember him saying is that he could see airports, and even specific runways from the shuttle.

It really made me realize that space isn’t that far away.

Francis Byrne is a Junior Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

Also see: Roaring into space

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