In May of 2011, President Barack Obama declared he was “100 percent committed to the mission of NASA and its future” as he outlined plans for federal spending to bring more private companies into space exploration following the soon-to-end space shuttle program.

“We want to leap into the future,” not continue on the same path as before, Obama said as he sought to reassure NASA workers that America’s space adventures would soar on despite the termination of shuttle flights.

He said the Kennedy Space Center launched Americans into space and inspired a nation for half a century. He said NASA represents what it means to be American — “reaching for new heights and reaching for what’s possible” — and is not close to its final days.

The Pinhead Institute is proud to bring to our community someone who spent his life reaching for new heights – Astronaut Joe Tanner.  Joe Tanner is visiting with regional students as part of Pinhead’s esteemed “Scholars in the Schools” program to talk with students about his experiences in space and why studying science is, well, “out of this world.”

Tanner joined the Navy after graduating from the University of Illinois in 1973. He went on to earn his Navy pilot wings in 1975 before serving as an A-7E pilot with Light Attack Squadron 94 (VA-94) aboard the U.S.S. Coral Sea. Tanner finished his active service as an advanced jet instructor pilot with Training Squadron 4 (VT-4) in Pensacola, Florida.

Tanner started working for NASA in 1984 as an aerospace engineer and research pilot. He became an Astronaut in 1992. A veteran of four space flights, Tanner logged over 1069 hours in space, including seven space walks.

He retired from NASA in August 2008. Tanner now works as a Senior Instructor in the University of Colorado Aerospace Engineering Sciences Department, in Boulder, Colorado, teaching and mentoring undergraduate and graduate students in space systems design. He is also a self-employed aerospace systems consultant.

Tanner will visit with students at the Telluride, Ridgway, and Ouray schools as part of Pinhead’s “Scholars in the Schools” program.  Throughout the school year, the Pinhead Institute brings internationally renowned scientist into our regional schools to lead labs, experiments, workshops, and field expeditions for students in grade school through high school. The program enables students from rural communities to interact with PhD scientists and specialist from around the world who study everything from nanoscience to biochemistry, field biology, climatology, and more.

Click the “play” button to listen to Joe Tanner tell us more about his time in space, the future of the US space program, and why programs like Pinhead are important to inspiring the next generation of space explorers.

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