BY LOUISE R. SHAW
Clipper Staff Writer
KAYSVILLE — It was kind of a rough ride for a little while, former astronaut Scott “Doc” Horowitz told third and sixth graders gathered at Davis High last week.
After all, there were one-and-a-half million pounds of thrust pushing him and his fellow astronauts through the atmosphere and into space at five times the speed of sound.
Faster than a bullet, he said, at times almost 18,000 miles per hour.
“It was a heck of a ride,” he said of the eight minutes and 25 seconds it took to get through the atmosphere to space.
Horowitz has flown four space shuttle missions, three times as a pilot and once as a commander when his shuttle docked with the International Space Station to transfer equipment and crewmembers.
He has flown once each on Columbia and Atlantis, and twice on Discovery. As a video played segments from his trip to the space station, he described to an attentive audience what it is like to be in space, to see liquids float around like little balls and to strap yourself into a bag at night to ensure you don’t inadvertently float into the people next to you.
When asked by a student what it takes to be an astronaut, he emphasized the importance of doing well in math and science, and the need for persistence.
He applied about a dozen times, he told the students, later telling the Clipper he started applying in 1978 and was finally accepted in 1992.
During the years of waiting and hoping, he made himself ever more qualified by earning a doctorate in aerospace engineering, by flying F-15s and 50 other planes for the Air Force, and by teaching courses in aircraft design and propulsion.
Flying into space was “an absolute blast,” Horowitz told one student who asked about the scariest part of his experiences.
“The first time they light those engines and you realize you’re sitting on top of all that power ... and that all of the really smart people are four miles away,” can be really exciting, he said, adding: “You’re too busy to be scared.”
Students also heard from Ken Wearthman, of ATK, who told students about the three plants along Utah’s Wasatch Front that have contributed to NASA’s space launch system.
Work is progressing on a launch abort system and boosters for the next space vehicles, with a first launch on the new designs set for 2017, he said.
“It takes many years to build a rocket that can take astronauts safely wherever they need to go,” he said, and Mars is on the radar.
Rita Stevenson, elementary science supervisor, told students that when she was their age, she built a solar system for a science fair, “never dreaming that one day we’d send someone into space.”
Astronauts are real American heros, she said, pioneering in a very dangerous job.
“A true hero is someone who puts his or her life on the line, or puts their life at risk for the betterment of other people,” she said.
She encouraged the students to study math and science and consider careers as engineers, doctors, scientists, astronauts or pilots.
“You can really do anything you set your minds to,” she said. “I hope one day you can be known as one of our American heroes as well.”