Navy Captain and Astronaut Visits MIT

IMG_6908Boston University – Massachusetts Institute of Technology  NROTC midshipmen welcomed back one of their unit alumni, Navy Captain and NASA astronaut Heidemarie Stefnyshyn-Piper on April 9.

The captain visited her alma mater, MIT, to discuss her unique Navy career with the Boston Battalion. The 1984 MIT graduate shared her Navy and NASA experiences with midshipmen from Boston University, Boston College, Northeastern University, Tufts University, Harvard College, and MIT during their weekly leadership lab.

Stefnyshyn-Piper briefed the midshipmen on her somewhat unusual career path, and “life after MIT,” as she put it, highlighting her time as an engineering officer, and 13 years as an astronaut. Even though not an aviator, the engineer and Navy diver said she had no reservations applying for the space program. “If I can change a propeller under water, why can’t I put on another suit and build a space station?”

DSC_4904Stefnyshyn-Piper told the unit about her challenges at Navy Dive School and about how she came to her decision to apply to be an astronaut. She showed video clips and pictures from her time in space. The captain also reflected back on her days as a midshipman at MIT, and said originally she had wanted to become a pilot, but when that didn’t work out, she stayed positive and kept constantly looking for opportunities. When she heard about applying for the space program, Stefnyshyn-Piper jumped at the chance to become an astronaut.

“I enjoyed hearing about a different route to becoming an astronaut than the typical aviation background we normally see,” said Midshipman 1st Class Victoria McCrave, who appreciated Stefnyshyn-Piper’s determination and drive as a MIT midshipman.

A veteran of the STS-115 mission in 2006 and STS-126 mission in 2008, Stefnyshyn-Piper has spent more than 27 days in space, and logged over 33 hours space walking. On her second mission, she was the lead spacewalker on a team that restored full power generation capability to the International Space Station.

The midshipmen were very interested in hearing more about life in space.  When asked the inevitable question about the food up there, Stefnyshyn-Piper told the midshipmen, “No, we don’t actually eat astronaut ice cream in space. It’s too crumbly!”

Stefnyshyn-Piper also answered questions and gave advice to the midshipmen, discussing the role of the private sector verses the government in the future of space exploration, and recounting lessons learned from her time in NROTC.  She said it all comes down to being a well-rounded individual and learning how to think critically, regardless of the area of study in college.

Midshipman 3rd Class Stephen Holcomb enjoyed the Captain’s talk, saying, “Captain Stefnyshyn-Piper provided us with a great look at life in the Navy after graduation from MIT NROTC. Overall, she gave a clear idea about her unique career, and some of the exciting opportunities that are available to us.”

Written by: MIDN 2/c Bridget McCoy

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