Astronauts Share Details From Era-Ending Shuttle Mission with Museum Visitors

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Hundreds of visitors gathered in the Museum’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Hall of the Universe on Tuesday morning to meet the four astronauts from NASA’s final shuttle mission, Atlantis’s STS-135. Commander Chris Ferguson, Pilot Doug Hurley, and Mission Specialists Sandy Magnus and Rex Walheim made their first New York appearance at the Museum since their return from space on July 21.

After discussing the mission, the astronauts also answered questions from children in the audience, whose inquiries ranged from whether the crew exercised in space to what meals the astronauts most enjoyed while aboard the Atlantis. Nearly 1,200 remote viewers tuned into the live stream of the event on our website, and many joined the conversation by tweeting questions, some of which were asked at the event.

With NASA’s 30-year-long shuttle program ending, the discussion, moderated by Museum Curator Michael Shara, soon turned to the future of space exploration. “We’re ready to go beyond,” said Magnus, who explained NASA’s plan to move beyond low Earth orbit. “Whether it’s the moon, an asteroid, Mars, we’re ready to push those boundaries even further.”

The Museum will explore just how humans may push the boundaries of space travel in the major new exhibition Beyond Planet Earth: The Future of Space Exploration, which opens on November 19 and is curated by Shara, curator in the Museum’s Department of Astrophysics. Meanwhile, Museum visitors offered their own ideas about where humans should go next.

“I would visit Neptune, since it would rain diamonds because it’s so cold,” said 8-year-old Caroline Filorimo, who hopes to make a space trip of her own some day.

As their final send-off, the astronauts presented the Museum with an American flag that flew on NASA’s final mission and a patch from a crew member’s suit. Ferguson said he hopes the gift will “remind all the youngsters of the possibilities that they have if they study hard and stay in school.”