BY NANE AVAGYAN
GLENDALE—NASA astronaut Gregory Chamitoff visited the Chamlian Armenian School on January 13 and his first-hand accounts of space travel and work in the space program captivated the 4th to 8th grade students who had gathered at the school auditorium to meet and listen to the veteran astronaut.
It all started when Chamlian fourth grade student Shant Armenian, a Sidewalk Astronomy Club member, wrote a letter to Congressman Adam Schiff asking him to arrange a visit by an astronaut to his school. The Congressman obliged and accompanied Chamitoff to the school.
And Chamitoff did not disappoint. The students were glued to his recounting of his role as Mission Specialist on the last flight of the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2011 and his career as an astronaut at NASA.
He told the students to believe in their dreams and work toward making them come true.
“The students were very interested in space and our activities, which is very encouraging,” said Chamitoff. “Today is an exceptional day, since the students have expressed interest on their own and I’m at Chamlian at their request, especially in response to Shant’s letter.”
“I was very happy when I received Shant’s letter and with great pleasure I was able to fulfill his and his classmates’ request,” said Rep. Schiff.
“There is something magical that happens when students get to interact with astronauts. “The kids are inspired and they are better able to understand the critical importance of math and science, subjects where American students lag behind those in other countries,” added Schiff.
The students walked away fulfilled and with the full appreciation that their initiative had paid off.
“This was a historic day for Chamlian. It would be for any school,” said Chamlian principal Vazken Madenlian.
Gregory Errol Chamitoff served as the Flight Engineer and Science Officer for a 6-month mission abroad the International Space Station in 2008 and was appointed as a Mission Specialist on the last flight of Space Shuttle Endeavour in 2011. Dr. Chamitoff flew to the International Space Station on STS-124, launching on May 31 2008. He was in space 198 days and returned to Earth on November 30, 2008 on STS-126. Chamitoff also served as a mission specialist on the STS-134 mission. A member of the California Astronaut Hall of Fame, he holds a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from California Polytechnic State University, an M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Caltech, and a Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from MIT.