"Every kid on the planet at some time wants to become an astronaut," said Scott Parazynski. "I just never let go of that dream."
When Scott was a child, his father worked at NASA. Rocket scientists would come to his house for dinner. Scott had space posters on the wall in his bedroom. He loved space and dreamed of being an astronaut.
That dream came true in 1992. Since then, he has flown into space four times on the space shuttle. He is about to make his fifth flight. He is a member of the crew of the STS-120 space shuttle mission. The STS-120 crew will help build the International Space Station.
It took a lot of hard work for Scott to make his dream come true. After high school, he went to college. Then he went to medical school. He became a doctor. While he was in medical school, he worked with NASA. He helped NASA study what happens to people when they fly in space. When he heard that NASA needed new astronauts, he applied for the job.
He was at home when NASA called him with good news. He had been chosen as an astronaut. "I hooted and hollered at the top of my lungs," he said.
Soon, he will be making his fifth trip into space. The STS-120 mission will be important for the International Space Station. The space shuttle Atlantis will carry a new piece to the space station. That piece is named Harmony. The name was chosen by students. Harmony will provide more room for the astronauts to live inside the space station. It will also let future missions add even more pieces to the space station. Harmony has places where other countries' laboratories will connect.
The STS-120 crew has another job to do on the space station. They will move some solar panels that are not being used now. After they are moved, they will provide more power for the space station. Adding Harmony and moving the solar panels will be a lot of work. The astronauts will be busy.
Scott will go on spacewalks to help with these jobs. He will put on a spacesuit and go outside the space station. On his earlier flights, he has already made three spacewalks. He says walking in space is amazing. The view is incredible. "It's a lot different from being inside the space shuttle looking through a very thick window," he said.
On one of his missions, Scott did something very special. He worked with one of his childhood heroes.
When Scott was still a baby, astronaut John Glenn made history. He became the first American to orbit Earth. He was a hero to Scott and many, many other people. But Glenn did not fly into space again for a very long time. Then, in 1998, John Glenn flew on the shuttle. Scott got to be a member of the same crew as Glenn. "I remember him floating up to the flight deck for the first time and looking out the window," Scott said. "I snapped a ... picture of him during that moment that I really value a lot."
Scott worked hard to follow his dream of becoming an astronaut. That dream came true. He says that students who have dreams like he did should also work hard. They should find things they like doing and study them. If students do that, maybe someday they can be part of missions to the moon, Mars and beyond.
"If you're interested in space, you've been born at the right time," he said. "So keep your eyes out and work hard at math and science."
Scott Parazynski Bio
NASA Education Web Site
NASA Space Station Module In Perfect 'Harmony' With New Name
In Perfect Harmony
David Hitt and Heather R. Smith/NASA Educational Technology Services