Fairfax Co. students hear speech from an astronaut who graduated from their school

Students at Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, got the special opportunity to hear from astronaut and alum Kjell Lindgren on Friday as he spoke about his journey on becoming an astronaut.

He graduated from the high school in 1991 and was selected to be a National Aeronautics and Space Administration astronaut in 2009.

“The truth of it is I should not be standing in front of you today talking about my experience as an astronaut,” he said.

Lindgren logged 311 days in space across two spaceflights and said his journey was challenging.

He said science fiction books inspired him to want to become an astronaut, and he decided to try to become a pilot to achieve that goal.

He joined the Air Force Academy, where he studied biology and premed but still held on to his goal of flying. After he graduated, he joined the Air Force and started pilot training.

Lindgren said everything was going as planned until he went to the flight surgeon with what he thought was a cold. The flight surgeon decided to ground him — meaning he could not fly — for six months.

“And then at the end of that six months, the Air Force came back, and I had my medical evaluation board, and they said, ‘Hey, not only are we not going to let you fly, we’re actually going to kick you out of the Air Force,'” Lindgren said.

Despite fighting the Air Force’s decision, it was upheld and he was medically discharged. However, that decision paved the way to his becoming an astronaut.

Lindgren thanked his family for supporting him through the hard times and credited them for getting him to where he is today.

Students asked him questions about space travel, astronaut training and what he thinks the future holds for the advancement of space exploration.

“Students like you here at Robinson are the next generation of explorers, and so we’re counting on you,” he said. “We are counting on you to join us in science, technology, engineering and math.”

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