Former astronaut and Nebraska native Clay Anderson is now teaching a college course that has students skydiving, scuba diving and learning wilderness survival skills. Anderson says the purpose of the workshop is to expose students to the type of critical thinking needed for spaceflight training.
“I think that’s the overlying goal for me is to create students who are ready to step into aerospace commercial companies and do great things,” Anderson says.
He’s running the program at Iowa State University for the first time and says he hopes to expand it into a class for credit. The Ashland native says when he started out, he didn’t have much operational training and had to learn it on the fly. He says there’s much more to the space industry than people think.
“We don’t intend to create baby astronauts here, what we’re trying to create are better students for the commercial spaceflight companies that can contribute more readily and more capably with these companies right off the bat,” according to Anderson.
About 50 students applied for the program and five from ISU and one from Tuskegee University were accepted. While the students get to jump out of planes, they also have to attend various lectures throughout the week.
The first and only Nebraskan to see the Earth from orbit, Anderson retired from NASA last year and now teaches part-time at the Ames, Iowa institution where he got his master’s degree in aerospace engineering. He did his undergrad work at Hastings College.
Anderson flew on two space shuttle missions, he spent more than 160 days in orbit aboard the International Space Station and he participated in six space walks.