‘The future is bright’

2017-11-07 06:00
Nasa astronaut Dr Don Thomas (in blue overalls) with learners of Claremont High School.

Nasa astronaut Dr Don Thomas (in blue overalls) with learners of Claremont High School.

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Learners of Claremont High School received a special visit from a former Nasa astronaut on Tuesday.

Dr Don Thomas visited the school to motivate learners just before they start their final year examinations.

Thomas tells People’s Post his talk was about living and working in space. His tour to Cape Town is aimed at empowering learners to take Mathematics and Science seriously as they are subjects that can open extraordinary opportunities for them.

His visit is organised by the Living Maths ­organisation.

Thomas served in the safety, operations development and payloads branches of Nasa and completed four shuttle missions, logging over 1040 hours in space. His last space travel was in 2007.

He says being an astronaut required many sacrifices and commitments and included specific routines to follow, including for his diet and exercise. He says it was not an easy journey for him but it was something he loved and wanted to explore.

He says it is important to him to motivate learners and assure them that, despite their circumstances, their future is bright.

He spent hours telling the learners about his life and journey to become an astronaut.

He says the learners were amazed to hear that he had been rejected three times and never knew the reason for his rejection. He kept on applying and on his fourth attempt he was ­successful.

Thomas says the learners’ response was amazing and it is clear to him he took them to a different side of the world.

“As I was talking about how I became an astronaut, starting from when I was dreaming about going to space at the age of six and when I received rejection letter three times, you would see a priceless expression on their faces,” he says. “I then told them about determination and perseverance. I told them to stay focused and work hard to reach their dreams.

“Never give up. Success takes time,” he says. On Thursday 2 November Thomas visited the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital were he toured the wards and read to the ­patients.

Steve Sherman, chief imagination officer of Living Maths, says the organisation targeted disadvantaged schools in Cape Town with limited access to Maths and Science-related resources for Thomas’s visit.

He was also impressed with the learners’ positive response. “They were interactive, asking questions and said they were more inspired to take these subjects more seriously. They were enthusiastic. Their response was completely overwhelming,” he says.

School principal Murray Gibbon says about 400 learners attended the talk and all enjoyed it. He says Thomas’s visit was wonderful for the school as it allowed the learners to hear the story first-hand. He says the learners were excited.

He encourages the learners to take the message seriously and know that nothing in life is impossible.

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