NASA astronaut speaks at Trinity

MORGANTOWN — No one on Earth has had the opportunity to travel into the vast wonders of space more times than Colonel Jerry L. Ross.

Ross, a veteran of seven missions aboard the space shuttle, is the joint record holder for most spaceflights with Franklin Chang-Diaz.

“I was very fortunate as a young person at the age of 10 that I had decided what I wanted to do with my life,” Ross said. “I applied a lot of determination and not giving up too easily when things didn’t work the first time, and ultimately I had the success of becoming an astronaut and doing what I got to do.”

On the morning of Jan. 30, Ross addressed the students of Trinity Christian School to talk to them about his journey to space and his career as an astronaut.

“Throughout my entire NASA career, I’ve always tried to focus my talks to young people,” Ross said. “I would like young people to see that it is still a possibility in their lives to figure out what their God-given talents are, and how they can apply those to their careers, to study hard, to work hard and not give up in pursuit of those goals.”

The assembly was in accordance with Trinity’s ongoing focus on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics this school year.

Lois Campbell, Trinity’s STEM specialist, has known Ross since their graduate school days at Purdue University.

“I’ve continued that relationship with him for a number of years now, and this year when we decided to use STEM as a focus for Trinity, I thought this would be a great opportunity,” Campbell said.

Campbell said that Ross’ visit is just one of many STEM activities that Trinity has done this year. The school started the year off viewing the total solar eclipse in August, thanks to a NASA grant that allowed them to buy special eclipse-viewing goggles. They also had a science fair earlier this month and hosted a “Family Science Night” for students in grades K through five.

As part of his visit to Morgantown, Ross also spoke at a public lecture on Monday night in the Mountainlair Ballrooms at West Virginia University.

“I worked with WVU to also bring him to WVU as well because we both read ‘Hidden Figures,’ which is also about the space industry,” Campbell said.

Throughout the day, he took the time to visit forensic science classes to talk about his involvement with the NASA team that located all the debris from the Columbia shuttle accident in 2003 and an ethics and leadership class to discuss the leadership failures that occurred that led to the Challenger shuttle disaster.

For both Trinity and WVU, the book “Hidden Figures” has been a central part of the STEM curriculum this year. The book was WVU’s 2017-2018 Campus Read.

“All of the middle schoolers and high schoolers have read ‘Hidden Figures’ as part of the curriculum for them, and then later this year we’ll have the film ‘Hidden Figures’ for the entire school for a movie night,” Campbell said.