Astronaut Lee Morin has landed at The University of Texas-Pan American for Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week with the assignment of inspiring young students to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
"It's really great to be able to come here. This particular event reaches so many people and has so much energy," said Morin.
At a reception held in his honor Sept. 30 in the NASA Exhibit, he greeted UTPA faculty, staff, students and community members, who were excited to meet the astronaut with more than 200 hours logged in space. They had the opportunity to ask him questions about his experiences, education and time in space.
Arlene Gorena was at the reception with her family and said she loves bringing her daughter to HESTEC events every year.
"It is so neat, I love that UTPA was able to bring an astronaut to speak with us," Gorena said. "This is actually the first year since I have been coming to HESTEC, that I actually get to meet an astronaut. To be able to ask him questions was awesome."
Gorena and her daughter Bianca discovered that Morin's favorite meal in space is shrimp with horseradish and that he will be a part of the construction process of a new spacecraft.
Bianca said she was excited and a little nervous to speak to Morin, but that someday she hopes to be just as successful.
Morin has an important message to send to young students like Bianca that reach far beyond his favorite meals in space. His goal at HESTEC is to encourage them to go to college and earn a degree. He said he wants them to know they can master even the things that seem the hardest with the help from family and professors.
"The best message I would like to send is that kids need to study hard in math and science and get STEM- related training so that they can get STEM-related jobs," Morin said. "These are the jobs of the future and will be very important to the economic future of the entire Valley."
Morin spoke of his education and how it has impacted him greatly. He said his degrees are the center of his life and have enabled him to do all the things he has. Morin holds a bachelor of science in mathematical and electrical science, a master of science in biochemistry, a doctorate of medicine and microbiology and a master's degree in public health.
"I hope these students have as many opportunities as I have. I want them to achieve a personal plan that works for them," Morin said. "I want them to find something they can be the best at. Every child has the potential and institutions like UTPA can make that potential possible to realize."
Morin joined the NASA team at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas in April 1996. He was selected as an astronaut the same year. Morin served on the crew of STS-110 Atlantis in 2002, which was the 13th shuttle mission to visit the International Space Station, and logged 14 hours of spacewalking time. He is currently assigned to the Exploration Branch, where he is working on the cockpit of NASA's newest spacecraft, the Crew Exploration Vehicle.
Morin will be at the NASA Exhibit during HESTEC Community Day. He will be speaking to the public and be available for questions. The NASA exhibit will also be open for exploration. It consists of hands-on activities for the entire family, featuring remote control robots, meteorites from mars, lunar samples, astronaut spacesuits and other items that astronauts use in space, such as plants and vacuumed packed dinners and desserts like M&M's.
HESTEC Community Day is Oct. 2 from 4 - 10 p.m. on the UTPA campus.
For more information go online at http://hestec.utpa.edu.