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Astronaut Helps Girls' Dreams Take Flight
Astronaut Pam Melroy speaks to the students Monday during a presentation at The Ellis School. Commander Melroy showed videos of the Discovery flight to the International Space Station and gave the students back their school magnet that traveled on their mission with them.
"I want to be an astronaut when I grow up," said Hartman, 9. "It seems fun."
Melroy, 47, of Houston returned to the all-girls school in Shadyside, which she last visited in 2006. She's flown on three space flight missions and is the second woman to command a space shuttle.
"I just felt a really strong connection to the students during my last visit," Melroy said. "I went to an all-girls school, Wellesley College, and I think having an environment where girls can study math and science without any gender issues is just really important for some students in order to excel."
That connection prompted Melroy to call the school after her visit and ask them to send her something to take into space. The school sent a large magnet with its logo. When Melroy returned it to the school yesterday, the magnet had traveled 6.2 million miles and reached a maximum speed of 17,500 mph during 238 Earth orbits.
"I hope very much that it helps to inspire those of you who would like to go into space," Melroy said.
Head of School Mary Grant said the magnet is a nice gesture, but wasn't necessary to inspire the students.
"The students were so excited about Pam herself -- she's a wonderful role model," Grant said. "It's really important to the students to see a woman who's committed her life in such an adventurous, ground-breaking way."
After a presentation that included an explanation of her crew's mission -- attaching a node to the International Space Station that would allow laboratories to dock and moving a solar panel -- Melroy answered dozens of questions.
"How long does it take to put on a space suit?" one girl asked.
"Two hours," Melroy said.
"Was it fun to float?"
Melroy replied: "Oh, yeah, it was like magic."
"Is it beautiful looking down on Earth?"
"It is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen," Melroy replied. "My favorite planet is Earth."