Story and photo by Spc. Samantha B. Koss
NASA astronaut Col. Douglas H. Wheelock visited Fort Carson March 10 following a six-month mission in space.
Wheelock spoke to students at Carson Middle School in the morning and spent lunchtime at the USO signing autographs and taking pictures with the military community.
“I enjoy spending time with the Army Family … as well as welcoming Soldiers back from Afghanistan and Iraq,” said Wheelock, whose trip occurred during a week of multiple redeployments.
Wheelock joined NASA in 1996 and is one of only four Army astronauts. He recently returned from a 163-day mission on the space station. Wheelock currently lives in Houston and is traveling to several posts sharing his experiences with Soldiers and their Families.
Two classes from Carson Middle School assembled in the school library to listen to Wheelock as he emphasized the importance of believing in dreams and focusing on school.
The students also watched a movie of Wheelock’s experiences in space, which included clips of astronauts enjoying weightlessness and pictures of Earth taken from the space station. After the movie, Wheelock opened the floor for questions.
“We are all ordinary people, it’s just a matter of applying yourself, studying hard and focusing on achieving your goals,” Wheelock said in response to a student’s question about how he made his dream of becoming an astronaut come true.
He also answered questions about life on the space station, how he re-adjusted to gravity and whether he saw aliens in space.
“Sadly, I didn’t see any aliens,” Wheelock replied.
Soldiers and their Families were able to meet Wheelock at the USO where they received an autographed picture of the astronaut in his space suit.
“Seeing an astronaut in person was very exciting … he was laid back and easy to talk to,” said Spc. Jesus Victoria, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
Wheelock is scheduled to visit Soldiers and Families at Fort Knox, Ky., and Fort Hood, Texas, within the next few months.