Aiming higher: Former astronaut encourages, inspires MSU audience

Posted at 4:24 PM, Apr 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-05 18:42:20-04

BOZEMAN – Former astronaut Scott Kelly says he wants to inspire students.

He made his pitch to engineering students on the MSU campus Thursday.  Later that night, he brought his message to a lot more people at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

Kelly is best known for spending 340 consecutive days aboard the International Space Station in 2015 and 2016.  He also was the pilot of the space shuttle Discovery in 1999. But these days, his goals are even higher.

“What I generally do, or hope to do is, you know, share stories about living and working in space, try to inspire people,” Kelly said.

At the engineering school on the MSU campus, Kelly says he hopes he inspired some students to push on in spite of difficult studies, and one day, maybe even join the astronaut corps. 

Kelly’s words of encouragement and enthusiasm landed at least one convert.

It sounds like he got at least one convert.

“I have not been good at grad school,” said Alysa Derks, MSU Engineering Graduate Student. “His book came out last spring and I was really having a hard time with school, and so I read his book and it pushed me to keep going. I wanted to quit, I almost quit. But, he made me keep going, and I’m still here today.”

Kelly says he was inspired by another book, Tom Wolfe’s, “The Right Stuff.”  Kelly wanted to be like the first astronauts and he says to do that he had to redouble his efforts in school.  He says the key, is to find that inspiration.

“Don’t stop looking,” Kelly said. “You know I was a person that despite my desires and efforts, felt like I couldn’t do well. Couldn’t study, couldn’t pay attention, didn’t do well in school until I found that motivation I think. You know, it’s there for everyone. They just need to figure it out.”

Kelly admits he’s probably not going to be able to speak to the issues facing millennials today.

“It’s a different world that we live in now,” Kelly said. “When I was in college, computers almost didn’t exist. I didn’t use a computer until 1994 when I was in test pilot school.”

But he says what he can do is sympathize with struggling students and offer them hope.

Kelly has spoken at a different college campus twice a week for the past eight weeks.

Reporting by John Sherer for MTN News