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Astronaut brings stars to Pomonok kids

National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronaut (NASA), Michael Massimino, along with Representative Anthony Weiner, encouraged students at P.S. 200 in Pomonok to reach for the stars.

About 250 children eagerly listened in the school auditorium to the space man speak on Monday, March 7, about his two two-week repair missions to the Hubble Space Telescope. He and his crew journeyed to the telescope to install new gyroscopes and change battery modules that weigh about two hundred pounds each.

“You know you’re farther away from home than you’ve ever been,” said Massimino, who also goes by “Mass.”

One child inquired about his most memorable moment.

“Getting to view the earth from space,” said. Massimino. “I really felt like I was looking into heaven.”

He grew up in Franklin Square in Nassau County and went to Columbia University to study engineering.

“I’m a local boy,” said Massimino.

He then continued his education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduating, he took on a job as a research engineer at McDonnell Douglas Aerospace in Houston, Texas. He also taught at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Then he applied to the astronaut program at NASA.

“They said no,” said Massimino.

Candidates must wait two years to apply again. It took him three more attempts to gain acceptance into the program in 1996, where he trained for two years before taking flight.

“You don’t always win every time,” said Massimino, urging students to keep trying, even after being disappointed.

The representative, pointing to Massimino as an example, said, “If you ever want to go up into space, you can.”

Massimino said that since he was 6 years old, he knew he wanted to leave the confines of the Earth.

“Their principal is telling them math is important, now they [students] understand that it might be,” said Weiner.

Looking at the blue planet from space, Massimino described the United States as a “Christmas tree,” with the major cities emitting piercing light at night.

“New York is like the jewel of the world,” he said.

The astronaut currently lives in Texas with his wife and two children. When terrestrial, he enjoys baseball—he is an avid Mets fan—coaching children’s sports and going camping.

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