Astronaut Col. Shane Kimbrough poses for pictures with Simpson Elementary pre-kindergarten students Jacoby Perkins, left, Shawn Wilburn and Aydin Evans on Tuesday. Kimbrough answered questions about space and shared experiences from his visit in November, 2008. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
PEACHTREE CORNERS — Many Simpson Elementary students were excited for an astronaut to visit their school on Tuesday, but perhaps none more than kindergartener Dean Saleeby.
Saleeby wore an orange space suit, took pictures with Col. Shane Kimbrough, and said being an astronaut is his dream job.
“It’s what I was going to look forward to being for my job,” Saleeby said. “It’s fun to be an astronaut.”
A process that began in August by the Parent Teacher Association ended over the winter break when school officials learned that they were selected for a visit by Kimbrough, who is based in Houston and is a native of Cobb County. Visiting his home state was a joy, he said, and visiting schools is one of the best parts of his job.
“In schools, you can inspire the next generation of kids to explore and find their road, whether it’s the space field, medical field, be a teacher, whatever it is,” Kimbrough said.
Principal Bron Gayna Schmit said the students’ excitement to see Kimbrough was evident as soon as buses arrived on Tuesday morning, and many had questions.
“We’re all about making memories, and what a memory for the children to experience this,” Schmit said. “It’s not every day a NASA astronaut comes to see you, and one that’s flown to space.”
Kimbrough said all astronauts are training to fly in space again, but his main job is testing every piece of hardware that goes into space to eliminate any problems.
Among the tidbits Kimbrough shared with the 800 or so students he spoke with were that the space shuttle travels at 17,500 mph and takes 90 minutes to go around the Earth.
One misconception he asked the students to test their parents on was the destination for each spach shuttle. While many people believe astronauts travel to the moon, that hasn’t happened since 1972. The recent destinations have been the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station.
Kimbrough, who graduated from Georgia Tech and has been an astronaut since 2004, also explained the importance of Velcro in space, and how to eat spaghetti and meat balls there.
“Eating is a lot of fun in space,” he said. “A lot more fun than here on Earth.”
The questions he heard from students ranged from how to jump rope in space, to how to go to the bathroom. For that student, because everyone was wondering the same thing, he gave a badge from his space visit in November, 2008.
“Questions are always great from kids, but when I see their minds really working and they’re thinking, it makes me feel great because they’re engaged,” Kimbrough said. “No matter what age it is, if you can get a kid engaged, and potentially inspire one kid out of 800, it makes it all worth it. Hopefully I’ll touch more.”