CG Astronaut Gives Back to the Community


10-Year Member
Jun 9, 2006

MONTVILLE -- Daniel Burbank is a man with a message.

Thursday morning, the NASA astronaut moved students at the Leonard Tyl Middle School to rapt attention with a PowerPoint presentation of his last flight aboard space shuttle Atlantis in September.

The mission of Atlantis' six-member crew was to carry and install 17.5 tons of trusses and solar panels to the space station to allow it to use solar power.

Burbank, a 1985 Coast Guard Academy graduate and now a captain, spent 13 days in space on that mission.

The students were impressed.

"It was great. I liked all of it, and I'm thinking about being an astronaut," said George Burch, 13.

"This was really cool. I studied space in fifth grade and made extra credit with a book about the planets," said Brandon Johnson, 13.

"I thought it was very interesting -- especially when they were floating around. But I don't plan on being an astronaut," said Lakota Milefski, 13.

"I liked the views from space and how cool it is to be weightless. I might want to be an astronaut," said Zander Johnson, 13.

Burbank encouraged the students to pursue their dreams.

"You have no idea what you are capable of doing," he said, adding, "Three things are a must" as they go through life.

"Work hard at any job, but find something you love and pursue it," he said. "Be good at that job. In space, astronauts' lives are in each other's hands."

And most important of all, "Don't give up, even if you fail in a first attempt."

Kept trying

Burbank told the students he was accepted at the Coast Guard Academy the second time he applied and was approved for the astronaut program in 2000, on his third attempt.

In addition to being an astronaut, Burbank holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering and a master's in aeronautical science. He also is a helicopter pilot.

He told students of his work as an astronaut:

-It takes four hours to don a space suit.

-If an astronaut using a power tool to remove a bolt on the exterior of the space station doesn't brace himself, the astronaut -- not the bolt -- would spin.

-A mere chip of paint knocked off the space station becomes a projectile traveling 17,000 mph. If it were to hit anything, it would deliver the force of a bowling ball going 70 mph. That's why all tools, as well as astronauts, are tethered to the space station.

The presentation included shots of weightless astronauts bobbing about and eating bites of food that floated in the cabin. Burbank explained exercise in space is important because bone and muscle can adapt to weightlessness, losing strength in doing so.

Shots of the shuttle docking with the space station made clear the action was a matter of maneuvering the craft inches at a time.

Shots of Earth from the shuttle were breathtaking, Burbank said. Whenever astronauts had any free time, he said, they spent it looking at the Earth -- identifying continents, landmarks and cities.
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