One astronaut received an honorary degree from his alma mater in the most out-of-this-world way possible: over a live feed while aboard the International Space Station as it traveled 17,150 miles per hour around the planet.
NASA astronaut Andrew J. “Drew” Feustel took a short break on his third mission to space to receive an honorary doctor of science degree from Purdue University on May 11. Feustel made an appearance at the university’s commencement ceremony thanks to a camera aboard the station, letting him tell students about how much the university — based in Lafayette, Indiana — meant to him when he was a student there in the late ’80s and early ’90s, according to a press release.
“For me, after community college, there was no other choice but Purdue, the only university I applied to, hoping and now knowing that that decision would change my life,” Feustel explained, “and set me on a path to the stars.”
The 52-year-old astronaut, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, ended his message to students on an inspiring note.
“As the adventure unfolds, I hope you look back on Purdue the way I do, with fond memories of the good and challenging times,” he said, as his wife, Indira Feustel, looked on in the audience. “You have earned your right to walk the stage and I wish you all the chance to fly among the stars professionally and for some of you, personally.”
NASA astronaut Scott Tingle — who is also a Purdue alum — placed a ceremonial hood over Feustel, who has two degrees from the university (a bachelor’s degree in solid earth sciences and a master’s degree in geophysics).
Purdue University president Mitch Daniels thanked Feustel for his efforts to advance space science, while referencing the Boilermakers, the university’s athletic teams.
“Boilermakers are known for making Giant Leaps for the benefit of humankind, from Neil Armstrong’s historic first step on the moon to today’s plant scientists helping feed the world’s growing population,” Daniels said. “Drew Feustel’s courage on behalf of our nation as he works to make the next Giant Leap in space science and exploration gives us all much to be proud of.”
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According to the press release, Feustel has spent a total of 80 days in space, 51 of which have made up his current mission. He’s also conducted seven spacewalks for a total of 48 hours and 28 minutes of spacewalking time and will be participating in his eighth spacewalk on Wednesday.
He’ll reunite with his wife when he returns to Earth in October.