Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan, first American woman to walk in space, visits Mirman campus

10/20/16 06:52:pm
| Category: Special Guests

The world is much bigger than most of us can even imagine. But some of us – like Dr. Kathryn D. Sullivan – have been lucky enough to see just how big it truly is.

Dr. Sullivan, who was the first American woman to walk in space and is now the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator, recently took some time to share her expansive knowledge of land, space, and sea with Mirman students in Room 4 through Upper School.

“This is a home movie,” she said, almost casually leaning against the podium in the Jacquelyn Michelle Ross Auditorium as a group of star-struck students looked on. “You can see me in this movie!”

Indeed, up on the screen, Dr. Sullivan could be seen meandering both inside and out of her spacecraft on one of her shuttle missions. Throughout her 15-year tenure with the NASA astronaut corps, Dr. Sullivan flew on three shuttle missions, including the mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. She called the images playing on the screen “the top of a dream [for her].”

With the Earth in the distance, she and her crewmates chased after candy floating through the air and played with spherical bubbles of water. “We’re wearing crazy-looking underwear,” she joked about her protective attire.

Dr. Sullivan was in town to speak at the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) at UCLA, but said that her visit to Mirman, arranged by parent and IoES board member Lawrence Bender, was particularly important because the younger generations were going to inherit our world – along with the responsibility to lead it. “Every government agency of all sectors need help to develop the infusion of talent,” she said. “We’re making decisions now about what legacy we’ll leave our kids and grandkids.”

A native of nearby Woodland Hills, Dr. Sullivan said that she grew up being fascinated by “National Geographic” and maps of the earth. She clearly had many kindred spirits in the auditorium; the students cheered and gasped in awe at footage not just from space but from the deep sea, where we had “alien life on our planet,” Dr. Sullivan said. After her presentation, she took questions from the students, who wanted to know, among other things, if she was nervous on her space flights, if she felt heavy when she came back to Earth, how the astronauts told time in space, and more.

Ultimately, Dr. Sullivan’s message was as inspiring as it was interesting. “I was able to pursue my dream because I worked hard in school and I loved learning,” she told the students. “I hope you will keep up with your learning. We can’t be ready for tomorrow if we don’t have people learning today.”

After her talk, Dr. Sullivan also left signed copies of her illustrated book, “To The STARS! The First American Woman To Walk In Space,” for the library’s collection.