HomeScienceOuter SpaceBenilde-St. Margaret's welcomes back NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei for homecoming

Benilde-St. Margaret’s welcomes back NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei for homecoming

NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei returned to Benilde-St. Margaret’s Friday to encourage students from his old school to take on challenges and not be afraid to fail.

Earlier this year, Vande Hei broke the record for the American astronaut with the longest single spaceflight after 355 days aboard the International Space Station. On Friday, when he returned home from the Catholic St. Louis Park School, he returned items from the school that he had taken into space. As part of the celebration, Friday was also officially declared “Mark Vande Hei Day”.

“To be a part of a community like Benilde-St. Margaret’s, like Minnesota, like my family, it gives you a solid foundation to explore further and further,” said Vande Hei.

Vande Hei began his presentation by reflecting on his memories of sitting in the same bleachers as the students he addressed. Benilde-St. Margaret’s welcomed the alum back with a loud round of applause, an opening prayer, and three student volunteers standing by to assist with the astronaut’s demonstrations.

After graduating from the school in 1985, Vande Hei earned a degree in physics from St. John’s University, followed by a master’s degree from Stanford. He then served in the military and taught at the Military Academy at West Point. He was selected as part of the NASA astronaut class of 2009.

Vande Hei has Benilde-St. from Margaret. In 2017, Vande Hei and Benilde-St. Margaret came up with the idea of ​​giving him a few pieces of the house to take with him for his next space flight. After drawing names in a raffle, two students gave their ID cards to the astronaut, and he took them on his record-breaking spaceflight.

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“I didn’t fly to space myself,” said Vande Hei. “So many people have dedicated their lives to give us – our nation – the opportunity to do this, and I just got the chance to do it on behalf of everyone. So being able to symbolically bring a few other people on board, before me, was awesome.”

Anna Carr, one of the students whose ID was brought to space five years ago, attended Friday’s call to retrieve it. Now an alumnus of the school and a recent graduate, she was delighted to hear about the journey of both Vande Hei and her old school ID.

Carr said she plans to preserve the traveled ID by putting it in a scrapbook.

In his speech to students, Vande Hei had an important message:

“Be prepared to risk failure,” he said. “You have to push yourself out of your comfort zone… Challenge yourself.”

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