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Former Astronaut Speaks to Sixth Graders

Joe Frank Edwards, Jr. speaks with students about his experiences as an astronaut.

Sixth grade students at Piedmont Middle met a former NASA astronaut on Friday, November 5. Joe Frank Edwards, Jr. visited the school and spoke with the students about his experiences as a Naval Aviator. “Mr. Joe Edwards is a dynamic speaker that brought a wealth of knowledge, experience and inspiration to our students. A true American hero…” said Mr. Andy Contafio, social studies teacher.

Edwards, originally from Alabama, earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the United States Naval Academy in 1980 and a Master of Science degree from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in 1994. He has received many special honors including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Defense Superior Service Medal, and he was Fighter Pilot of the Year several times during his career. He has flown 4000 hours in over 25 different aircraft and logged over 650 carrier-arrested landings.

Edwards was selected as an astronaut by NASA in December of 1994. He has worked technical issues for the Space Shuttle and Space Station in the Safety Department of the Astronaut Office. He also served as Technical Assistant to the Director, Flight Crew Operations Directorate, and NASA Director of Operations, Russia. He retired from NASA and the Navy on April 30, 2000. Currently, he is involved in several companies around the country in the areas of technology, aviation, and business development.

Students were captivated by Edwards as he spoke of his experience on the eighth Shuttle-Mir docking mission during which the crew transferred more than 9,000 pounds of scientific equipment, logistical hardware and water from Space Shuttle Endeavor to Mir. Mission duration was 8 days, 19 hours, 47 seconds, traveling 3.6 million miles in 138 orbits of the Earth.

“The astronaut, Joe Frank Edwards, was really cool!” said sixth grade student Katherine Burkart. “He answered all our questions. He shook my hand and I got his autograph and a picture with him.”

Classmate Michael Goodelle said he learned many things about gravity and the space shuttle. Adam Hinson agreed, saying, “The astronaut has had a lot of experience in flying. He flew the shuttle and a plane in the Air Force.”
The sixth grade classes have several speakers scheduled throughout the year to enhance the curriculum.

Written by: Lana Funderburk
Posted: Nov 15, 2010 by Mrs. Karen Barbee

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