After months of writing politicians, meeting with city officials and getting her class interested in space, 6-year-old Samantha Johnson landed not one but two astronauts.
Dr. Richard Linnehan spoke at Pinecrest Academy, 1360 S. Boulder Highway, May 12 followed by Steven Lindsey on May 16.
“I think this was a fantastic thing for the kids,” said Anthony Johnson, Samantha’s dad. “What she was able to pull off was nothing short of a miracle.”
Students packed into the cafeteria of the Henderson school.
Linnehan has traveled more than 23 million miles and spent nearly 60 days — 42 hours for space walks — on his four missions in space.
He approached the microphone, and the crowd of mixed elementary- and middle school-age students grew still and quiet.
“This is what the Earth looks like from space,” he said as the video began showing the Earth during a rotation.
“Wow!” some of the students yelled out as the video captured city lights, lightning storms and the Northern lights from space.
“You are seeing something few people get to see,” Linnehan said. “Today, you are all astronauts.”
Johnson had been dreaming about this day since her fascination with space began.
After receiving a letter, U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., helped make that dream come true by putting the school in contact with Linnehan.
U.S. Sen. Harry Reid helped orchestrate the second visit.
Pinecrest also used the assembly to also kick off its STEAM program, which focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
“No one ever talked to me about STEM when I was your age,” Linnehan said.
Along with talking about his experiences as an astronaut, Linnehan stressed the importance of doing well in math and science programs.
He said it was great that students such as Samantha take initiative to reach out to learn more.
“I guess this makes her the hero of the school now,” he said.
Even though Samantha was excited to have an astronaut come to speak, she wasn’t able to ask Linnehan the dozens of prepared questions she had because of time constraints.
Before he left, Samantha did squeeze her way through the crowd to try to meet Linnehan, but after he and Titus finished at Pinecrest, they had to rush to Hyde Park Middle School for another presentation.
In the brief moment she was able to say hello, Linnehan presented her with a patch from one of his space missions.
“I’m sure she is going to want to know why she didn’t get to ask her questions,” Johnson said. “But at least he gave her (the patch).”
Contact Henderson View reporter Michael Lyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5201.