Hometown Heroes 2009: St. Louis Cardinals Honor Sandra Magnus and Celebrate NASA
JSC2002-E-16084 -- Astronaut Sandra H. Magnus

Astronaut Sandra H. Magnus, mission specialist/ISS flight engineer. Photo Credit: NASA

In late August, the St. Louis Cardinals took NASA Astronaut Sandra Magnus to the ball game to throw out the first pitch. Magnus isn’t part of the Cardinals’ starting line-up, but she is a hometown hero.

Magnus’ roots were planted in nearby Belleville, Ill. Her homecoming was part of NASA’s Hometown Heroes campaign, which aims to engage and excite the public about NASA’s space exploration missions, celebrate both the advent of a six-person crew on the nearly complete International Space Station and the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11.

This was Magnus’ first time back to St. Louis since her four-and-a-half month stay aboard the station as part of the Expedition 18 crew in March. Her first flight was on STS-112 in 2002. Magnus earned a bachelor’s degree in physics, a master’s in electrical engineering from the Missouri University of Science and Technology and a doctorate in materials science and engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

“I’m a little more nervous about this (throwing the first pitch) than flying in space because I haven’t practiced as much… I have to make it to home plate,” Magnus said.

And she did make it to home plate to kick-off the sold-out Cardinals game against the Houston Astros, the city where Magnus now lives as part of NASA’s Astronaut Corps at Johnson Space Center. The Cardinals won that night.

The self-proclaimed Cardinals fan was also on a mission to inspire the next generation of explorers in her hometown. Magnus spoke to hundreds of students, including the Missouri Boy Scout troops, about her space adventures and her love for math and science.

At the St. Louis Science Center, hundreds of students laid on their backs to look up at the planetarium’s ceiling that was illuminated with videos of Magnus’ mission, from launch to landing, and listen to Magnus tell her stories. Afterwards, Magnus answered various questions, signed autographs and connected with students.

“It was my first time seeing an astronaut,” said Laci Jo, a six-year-old from Moberly, Mo., whose current ambitions include artist, teacher, and now—astronaut. It was great to see the movie. My favorite part was watching her do back flips (aboard the station).”

“She’s always been interested in space,” said Charli Wheeler, Laci Jo’s mother. “But this is a female (astronaut). It shows her what women can do. We live in a small town where there’s still stereotypes that woman can’t do everything.”

St. Louis is known for the Gateway Arch, which provided early American pioneers into the West. But Magnus is making sure that’s she’s providing a gateway for the next explorers into a very different frontier – space.

“I’m a girl and I do math and science,” Magnus said. “I would encourage all students, boys and girls, to follow whatever dream they may have, and certainly don’t limit yourself. That’s the key – don’t limit yourself. Believe in yourself, and go for it.”

For more information about the NASA Hometown Heroes 2009 campaign, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/astronauts

Debbie Nguyen
Johnson Space Center, Houston