The United States Naval Academy (USNA) hosted its annual Astronaut Convocation Mar. 9th in Mitscher Auditorium.
The convocation was an opportunity for the Brigade of Midshipmen to learn about the future of space flight and exploration from leaders in the field as well as current and former astronauts.
“There is a future for all of you in technology, medicine, science, aerospace and teaching,” said Frank Culbertson, Jr., panelist and Naval Academy Class of 1971 graduate. “I encourage all of you to think about how you are going to make a difference and what you are going to say when you get up here 20 or 40 years from now.”
Five of the Naval Academy’s 52 astronaut graduates served as panel members and provided feedback to the full-capacity crowd. USNA Superintendent Vice Adm. Ted Carter spoke of the deep heritage the academy has with aerospace.
“This is something that doesn't really happen anywhere in the country. We have produced more NASA astronauts than any other institution. The very first American in space was a USNA graduate,” said Carter. “We bring phenomenal people back who have graduated from this institution and we have current access to faculty members who are astronauts. USNA has a great history involving aerospace.”
The foundations of the careers the astronauts have built started with their time at USNA. Robert Cabana, the director of NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center and Naval Academy Class of 1971 graduate, explained the hardest lessons are the ones you learn from the most.
“I wasn't able to be a pilot when I first tried, but with time, I was able to do so and more,” said Cabana. “I learned an awful lot at USNA. I grew a lot here. I learned to keep trying. There are things that I didn't want to do and assignments that I later didn't want to take, but some of those ended up being the best experiences of my life. Everything is what you make of it.”
For the midshipmen in attendance, it was a unique opportunity to gather insight from those who have been in their shoes, and gone on to do great things with their lives.
“There’s no other chance you can have to sit down and have a conversation with five astronauts,” said Midshipman 3rd Class Will McMasters. “It’s really awesome to see what the fruits of your labor can become. These people left USNA and did amazing things, and it’s inspiring to see.”
“As an individual who has wanted to become an astronaut ever since he was a toddler, this convocation provided me advice on how to become a prospective NASA astronaut candidate,” said Midshipman 1st Class Vigneshwar Manickam. “The astronauts provided motivation to the many hopeful future astronauts in the crowd by tying their experiences in space directly to their four-year experience at USNA."