Cape Town – National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) veteran astronaut Dr Don Thomas, who did 692 space orbits of Earth, visited Christel House pupils in Ottery to inspire them to reach their dreams.
The science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem)-based educational NGO Living Maths brought Thomas to Cape Town as part of the Space Tour 2019.
Thomas motivated pupils to work hard every day and said “the most important part of accomplishing your dream is to never give up on it”.
“I dreamt of becoming an astronaut since I was six years old. It took a long time, 33 years and a lot of hard work in school, but I never gave up.
"And even when I was not successful getting into the astronaut programme, I kept trying to improve myself,” Thomas said.
“That's the key. So to the young pupils, work hard every single day in all your subjects, always do your absolute best and never give up on your dream in life,” he said.
Thomas commended South Africa for making great strides in space exploration with the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.
“I think the SKA is an incredible project and all of South Africa should be proud of that accomplishment. It’s a great motivator to be in the forefront of astronomical research, and something all learners in South Africa can look up to,” said Thomas.
Fifty years ago, on July 20, Nasa’s famed Apollo 11 programme enabled the first humans to walk on the moon.
To date, 533 humans have space-travelled like Thomas to reach Earth's orbit; three others completed a sub-orbital space flight, and only 12 astronauts have walked on the moon.
“I am excited about being a part of Living Maths’s Space Tour 2019 and look forward to sharing my experiences with the learners and the general public in South Africa.
“It’s very special to be able to do this during the 50th anniversary year of the Apollo 11 moon landing.
“So while we celebrate that accomplishment, we hope to be inspiring the next generation of mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and astronauts to help us with the missions to our next destination in space - Mars,” said Thomas.
Chief imagination officer at Living Maths, Steve Sherman, said: “Do we have the next generation of budding imagineers and daydreamers, scientists, mathematicians and engineers?
“Could South Africans be among them? I think so.
“Parents, schools and teachers have such an important role to play in gently turning children from their immersion in meaningless screen activities towards bold, curious adventures in our real world, our universe.
“Meeting a bona fide spaceman can be one of those pivotal turning points in a child’s life, where achievement in STEM subjects and activities brings to their whole lives a visceral sense of purpose and incredible enjoyment of being alive in their time.”