Retired Astronaut Returns Home To Visit and Inspire Students

MCALLEN, Texas - A retired astronaut landed in McAllen, to teach students history they won't find in textbooks.

Retired Astronaut Michael Fossum returned to his alma mater. He had some words of encouragement to the students.

"I had a vague dream when I was in middle school of flying in space. That was the time in the Apollo mission we were landing on the moon. When I was in middle school, I had that dream just like every other kid in the country, but I really didn't think it would come true."

Michael Fossum was born in South Dakota but grew up right here in the Rio Grande Valley and had no idea he would grow up to become a space man.

"For me the key was continue to work hard. By the time I graduated from high school that idea from flying into space was almost completely forgotten but I knew I wanted to pursue engineering."

Coming from a financially challenged family didn't stop him from pursuing a higher education outside of the valley.

"Money was an issue. My father didn't go to college, but my parents really believed in education and pushed that in order to afford Texas A& M. I had to join the Corps of Cadets, the ROTC program there, get a cheap dorm room and that introduced me into the military where I never thought I would go."

After being rejected three times for the astronaut program, Fossum never gave up. Many years later upon his retirement he has logged more than 194 days in space and went by his alma mater to inspire those that also have a dream.

Albert Canales with McAllen High School said, “I think it’s awesome for our kids to see someone who went to school here in the valley, graduated from McAllen High School and became a U.S. astronaut and now working for A&M. Sometimes it’s unreal I think you have a better chance of meeting an athlete than you do an astronaut.”   

Mr. Canales is the principle of McAllen High School and is thrilled to have a special guest from the valley demonstrate the achievements anyone can reach.

“He gave a good point to the kids. I think it's good for them to see that somebody real actually made it from McAllen High and came back to tell the story.” Said Canales.  

One piece of advice Michael Fossum has for everyone, is to always continue reaching for you dreams even if you don't think you can reach them.

"I was told I couldn't do it. I didn't listen. I was told I was crazy. I didn't listen. I was laugh at and people tried to take away my dream. I didn't talk about it as much, but I kept working towards it. When I went to college I struggled and failed some classes. I had to go to summer school to make things up, but I always believed I could do this.”

Michael Fossum may be retired from NASA but his work isn't done. He is currently a professor at Texas A&M Galveston.


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