The Times West Virginian

September 28, 2013

Space program: Making life ‘better on Earth’

Astronaut Mike Fincke to present WVU flag from Endeavour mission at today’s football game

By Colleen S. Good
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — Astronaut Col. Mike Fincke talked with West Virginia University students, children and members of the community Friday, sharing the “wonder of flying in space.”

The talk took place at the WVU ballroom.

Fincke is originally from the Allegheny Mountain region, growing up in Emsworth, Pa. One of his coworkers, Judy Hayes, is a WVU alumna. As a favor to her, Fincke flew a WVU flag on the Endeavour Space Shuttle mission.

During the WVU-Oklahoma State game today, Fincke will present that WVU flag to the WVU Alumni Association, and it will be on permanent display at the Erikson Alumni Center.

Fincke spoke on his experiences at the International Space Station.

“One of the most breathtaking things that I’ve ever seen was flying over the Allegheny Mountains at 17,500 mph,” Fincke said. “This is one of the most beautiful parts of the most beautiful planet in the whole Solar System.”

More than 150 people attended the talk Friday, around 20 of them children. The talk included video of the astronauts aboard the International Space Station performing super-hero like feats in the low-gravity conditions aboard, such as taking off like Iron Man, and eating floating candy.

International space endeavors are important, Fincke said, because they help emphasize what we can accomplish by working together.

“We didn’t just do it with the United States; we did it with our international partners,” Fincke said. “We worked together constructively and not destructively.”

Fincke encouraged anyone with an interest in space to pursue it.

“We have people who didn’t just study science and engineering, but people that studied everything else, all the way from graphic artists to medicine and sports physiology,” Fincke said.

Fincke said that the space program isn’t just about studying space, but about improving life on Earth as well.

“For the past 120 years, technology has changed life on planet Earth so much,” Fincke said. “That’s what we’re doing in the space program — we want life to be better on Earth.”

Briana Woods, a nursing student at WVU, said the talk was eye-opening.

“I didn’t really know much about the job of an astronaut,” Woods said. “Looking into the beautiful creation of this world, seeing what no one else sees ... it’d be life changing.”

Fincke has spent a total of more than 381 days in orbit and logged more than 48 hours on nine spacewalks.

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.