USNA Hosts Annual Astronaut Convocation

Story Number: NNS170213-03Release Date: 2/13/2017 8:53:00 AM
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By Mass Communications Seaman Kaitlin Rowell

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (NNS) -- The United States Naval Academy hosted its annual Astronaut Convocation Feb. 9 in Alumni Hall.

This year's theme focused on the future of human space exploration to Mars. The Brigade of Midshipmen had an opportunity to engage in a panel discussion with four USNA graduates who went on to become astronauts and leaders in field of space exploration.

The panel members took turns discussing various topics including NASA's role in commercial space travel, as well as speaking to the midshipmen about the importance of their future roles as military leaders.

"You will be wearing the uniform of the most powerful military in the world," said retired Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr. (USNA '68), former NASA administrator. "You're training to lead it. You're training to lead young men and women who have to believe in you. You learn something here in your core values training that is not just words; it is really important. You are the leaders of the world and people look to us wherever we go."

Capt. Chris Cassidy (USNA '93), chief of the NASA Astronaut Office, spoke about the training cycle NASA uses for preparation and the how crews assigned today are the ones that will be performing missions beginning in 2019.

"It takes about two and a half years of training to get to the point of launch," said Cassidy. "Much like a pre-deployment work up cycle that we all experience or you guys will experience in the Navy."

Capt. Michael Lopez-Alegria (USNA '80), and Capt. Bruce McCandless (USNA '58) also sat on the panel. Additionally, eight more of the Naval Academy's 53 astronaut graduates were in attendance.

The annual astronaut convocation is designed to provide a unique and valuable interaction for the midshipmen as they look ahead to their own careers.

"I've been interested in space for a long time," said Midshipman 4th Class Brendan Finn. "I thought it was really neat hearing the different perspectives from each of the astronauts, especially since each had a different job at NASA."

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