Nation’s first tribally enrolled member to fly in space inspires students on 50th anniversary of moon landing
Oregon Department of Education
On Saturday, July 20, former NASA astronaut John Herrington gave the keynote address to students participating in the Apollo Next Giant Leap Student Challenge at LaCreole Middle School in Dallas, Oregon. Herrington, a member of the Chickasaw Nation, was the first enrolled tribal member in space when he flew on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in November, 2002. His message to the students was about perseverance when working towards a goal.
“The most satisfying things you do are usually the hardest things you do,” Herrington said. “The idea of collaborative learning is common in Native communities. My research was looking at kids, what motivates them to study math and science and it’s hands-on learning, working with your friends, finding those things that spark the motivation to want to learn more.”
Herrington’s appearance coincided with the 50 anniversary of the moon landing. He told the students he never thought he could be an astronaut, but that he listened to people who had confidence in him and it spurred a renewed effort to get a degree in mathematics and become a test pilot because that was a pipeline to becoming an astronaut. Herrington says he hopes that, 50 years from now, one of these students will be talking about his or her trip to the moon or Mars and inspiring yet another generation of space exploration.