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First Native Astronaut Tells Students at Hopi High About Space Journeys

Retired Chickasaw astronaut John Herrington tells Native American students to believe in what they are capable of and make their own decisions.
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Going into space is a dream some little kids have growing up. It’s a dream John Herrington, the first Native astronaut, first dreamed when he was just 8 years old, reports the Navajo-Hopi Observer.

Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw Tribe, is one of only 215 humans to have been outside an aircraft in space. He is now retired, but he spoke to students at Hopi Jr./Sr. High School on May 5 about.

Among his space travels has been a trip to the International Space Station, situated 220 miles above Earth.

“It was a unique opportunity and a chance to do something remarkable,” he said, according to the Navajo-Hopi Observer. “Two hundred and twenty miles would be a few hours drive if you could drive straight up.”

Photo by Stan Bindell

Hopi High students Ferrell Poneoma and Kyle Secakuku are seen here with astronaut John Herrington.

Herrington has now gone from pretending to fly in a spaceship in a cardboard box when he was 8, to actually walking in space, which he said was a highlight.

“Space walking is challenging. It’s like grabbing a tennis ball for hours,” he said, according to the Navajo-Hopi Observer. “Sometimes you worry about what could go wrong, but you don’t dwell on it or you couldn’t do your job.”

His advice to students at Hopi Jr./Sr. High School was to believe in what they are capable of and to get help from people who can make a difference in their lives, reported the Navajo-Hopi Observer. “But make decisions yourself,” Herrington cautioned.

Kursheena Yazzie, a junior at Hopi High, told the Observer that she enjoyed the presentation because the thought of a Native American in space is cool, especially because some Native cultures believe in not leaving in Earth. She said she would like to go into space someday.