Dr. Gregory Olsen, the third private citizen to orbit the earth on the International Space Station, recently talked to fourth- through eighth-graders at the Academies at Gerrard Berman Day School in Oakland. GBDS parent Jackie Rigante connected the school to Dr. Olsen.
Dr. Olsen described his experiences when he trained for his mission at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Moscow, and he discussed his 10-day stay on the ISS. During his time in space, Dr. Olsen, along with his fellow travelers, Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts, went nearly four million miles and orbited the earth 150 times.
The presentation included photos and videos documenting the mission, including the blastoff, as well as the realities of drinking, eating, sleeping, and performing other daily tasks in space. Students learned about the mechanics of space flight, including the speed a shuttle must maintain to achieve and to remain in orbit, and about the intricacies of bringing a spacecraft back to earth.
Dr. Olsen fielded questions about using a bathroom in outer space, training for space travel, and keeping busy on the ISS. When he was asked what inspired him to travel in space, Dr. Olsen said that he was in middle school when Sputnik was launched, and that event provided the spark for him.
Dr. Olsen, who said that his motto is “never give up,” holds degrees in physics and has a Ph.D. in materials science and holds 12 patents for fiber optics and infrared cameras. After a career as a research scientist and entrepreneur, he became the president of GHO Ventures in Princeton
Dr. Olsen is active in a range of charities and affinity groups, and he works to encourage children, particularly girls and members of minority groups, to consider careers is science or engineering. His message reinforced Academies’ focus on leadership and on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics.