Out of this world

Astronaut Janet Kavandi lectures to students in Webster Hall Oct. 21. Kavandi presented pictures and video taken from space.

Astronaut Janet Kavandi lectures to students in Webster Hall Oct. 21. Kavandi presented pictures and video taken from space.

David Haut

Astronaut Janet Kavandi has gone further than any other Missouri Southern graduate.

How far? About 13.1 million miles, that’s how far.

On Oct. 21, Kavandi spoke to a crowd of children, students and faculty in Webster Hall auditorium, discussing things such as weightlessness and space food while presenting slides and video from two of her missions into space.

“I thought her presentation was really good,” said Julie Blackford, director of student activities.

Blackford said she was disappointed in the small turnout.

“The student’s missed out a lot,” Blackford said. “I thought faculty would bring more students.”

Kavandi graduated valedictorian of Carthage High School, earning her a presidential scholarship to Southern.

After earning her degree in three years, she headed to graduate school, eventually earning her Ph.D. in analytical chemistry from the University of Washington-Seattle.

During her graduate studies, she applied to NASA.

“When the shuttle program began, and they were taking scientists and females for the first time, I decided that’s what I would try to become,” Kavandi said.

When she heard she was accepted as an astronaut candidate, she was literally speechless.

Kavandi said she called her husband to tell him the news, but when she tried to talk, no words came out — she was that excited.

Since then, Kavandi has flown on three missions, spending more than 33 days in space, orbiting the earth 535 times.

Kavandi met her husband, John, at Southern. The two reside in Houston with their two children.

Her family is what inspires her to do what she loves.

“My kids inspire me to be a good role model for them,” she said. “I want to inspire my own children.

“Emotionally, the most difficult part is saying ‘goodbye’ to your kids before a launch,” she said. “That’s the most difficult part for me.”

She said her children are used to the fact their mom is a ‘world traveler.’

“My kids have grown up with it,” she said. “This is all they know. They didn’t realize, when they were little that not everyone’s parents did something like this. Now they’re starting understand a little more, how unique it is.”

Kavandi stressed that anyone could be where she is with hard work and determination.

She said astronauts at NASA are not extraordinary people or special in any way.

“We’re ordinary people,” she said. “Ordinary people who work hard.”

Kavandi hopes to fly again in the future. Currently, she’s not scheduled to fly another mission, but she said she would like to fly again.

As for retirement, Kavandi does not plan on leaving NASA anytime soon.

“I’ll stay as long as they’ll keep me,” she said.