DARTMOUTH, Mass. (WPRI) — “Station, this is Houston.” Those were the words that beamed up to the International Space Station (ISS) and across the country to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, where hundreds of people were waiting to hear from Captain Scott Tingle.
“Hello UMass Dartmouth! It’s great to be with you today,” Tingle said to the crowd, speaking from the ISS located 254 miles above the Earth. His greeting was followed by cheers from the crowd in the Main Auditorium on the campus.
Tingle was raised in Randolph, Massachusetts and attended Southeastern Massachusetts University, which is now UMass Dartmouth, where he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He served in the U.S. Navy and flew FA-18A/C Hornets during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, according to his NASA biography.
Tingle was selected to be an astronaut in July 2009, training on a variety of tasks including spacewalks, robotics and Space Station systems. He arrived to the ISS in December of 2017, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“Hi Scott, It’s Mom. We are so proud of you,” Sheila Tingle, Scott’s mother, said.
Speaking to Eyewitness News after the event, Sheila Tingle said that it’s hard to surprise (her son), but she was able to do it today. She asked her son to show off his microgravity trick, to which he obliged by doing a tumble in mid-air.
It wasn’t just Scott Tingle’s mother who got to ask questions of the 52-year-old astronaut. UMass Dartmouth professors and students had the opportunity to blast off questions to Scott Tingle at the ISS. The questions were pre-screened by NASA before the event.
A third grader from a local elementary school stepped onto a milk crate and spoke confidently into the microphone, asking Scott Tingle about why he wanted to become an astronaut.
After a small delay, Scott Tingle responded.
“Well our country walked on the moon,” Scott Tingle said.
Sheila Tingle said that her son never slept as a kid.
“So we were up one night, watching an old black and white TV, and we saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, and that was the beginning,” Sheila Tingle said.
Scott Tingle later got to meet Armstrong, which Sheila Tingle says was “the best day of his life.”
When asked about advice he could give to students who fear they can’t accomplish their goals, Scott Tingle’s answer was to keep trying, even if you fail the first time.
“When you set a goal, you don’t set a goal because it’s easy…you set the goal because it’s a challenge. And with any challenge, there’s always a risk you’re not going to get there on your first try, second try or third try. So, don’t fear failure. That failure is your moment to learn more to do it better,” Scott Tingle said.
Scott Tingle, wearing a UMass Dartmouth T-shirt, pleasantly answered a couple dozen questions from the crowd, including how he adjusted to microgravity and if he like the food. He said the food was really good, saying he had lasagna last night and oatmeal with apples and cinnamon this morning, but of course, he had to add water to the food to re-hyrdate it.
Chantelle Pavao, a member of the UMass Dartmouth Class of 2020, asked Scott Tingle if there was a specific professor at UMass Dartmouth who stood out during his academic years.
“Being able to see someone who is so close to UMass Dartmouth, and being part of that in a small way, was really awesome,” Pavao said.
Dr. Ron DiPippo, a former engineering professor at UMass Dartmouth, was the answer Scott Tingle gave to Pavao.
“For our students to be able to talk to someone who is standing on the International Space Station, who literally walked the hallowed ground where they walk, I think it’s absolutely exceptional,” University Chancellor Robert Johnson said.
The ISS orbits the earth approximately every 90 minutes at 17,200 mph. The astronauts and cosmonauts on board can see 16 sunrises and 16 sunsets each day. Before his Q & A session, the astronaut had some time to reflect on his time in space.
“I was sitting in the cupola as we were crossing Cape Town, South Africa, and I was thinking, ‘Wow, we humans are really lucky. We’ve got a beautiful place to live,'” Scott Tingle said.
Scott Tingle is expected to return to Earth in early June.