Leroy Chiao on how his astronaut dream came true

Leroy Chiao

Leroy Chiao is the only American Chinese heritage astronaut. In his recent interview with South China Morning Post (SCMP), he talked about how he made his space dream come true.

Joining the space race:

After university, the dream to go to space was always in the back of my mind. I worked for a company that made materials for aerospace and sports equipment, then for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. By then, I had the right degrees and the right amount of work experience, so I applied to Nasa in February 1989.

Taking flight:

learned to fly in graduate school. After I passed my PhD, I took out a loan, went to the airport right by the campus, started taking flying lessons and got my pilot’s licence.

For some people, flying is a raw thrill, but, for me, there’s satisfaction in doing something that demands a lot of precision. I don’t fly as often as I’d like – only about 50 hours a year. If I have a meeting somewhere not too far away, I’ll fly there. When I was at Nasa I had a house on a small private airstrip that we shared between the flying community. I had a hangar in my backyard with my airplane in it so I could just fly from my home.

The next generation:

In Asian culture, you are not supposed to promote yourself; you are supposed to work hard and wait to be noticed, but that doesn’t work in Western culture. I tell them it’s important to project yourself and make sure your superi­ors know about your capabilities and accomplish­ments. You are not being boastful; you are taking care of yourself.

Our big message for kids is developing ethics and morals: you are not entitled; you have to work hard, and treat people with respect. We encourage them to follow their dreams and persist. So if it doesn’t work out, at least you tried.

Full interview article can be found here.

Leroy ChiaoLeroy Chiao 焦立中 worked at NASA for 15 years before he left the agency in 2005.  A veteran of four space missions, Dr. Chiao most recently served as Commander and NASA Science Officer of Expedition 10 aboard the International Space Station. He has logged over 229 days in space – over 36 hours of which were spent in Extra-Vehicular Activity (EVA, or spacewalks).

Aside from being a Space Station Commander and Space Shuttle Mission Specialist, Leroy ‘s is also:

  • uniquely qualified to speak about the United States, Russian, Japanese, European and Chinese Space Programs
  • a certified Co-Pilot of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft
  • an expert in all facets of U.S. and Russian EVA hardware and operations and is EVA certified in U.S. and Russian spacesuits, tools, and training programs
  • the first American to visit the Astronaut Research and Training Center of China in September 2006, where he met the first two national Chinese astronauts, Yang Liwei and Fei Junlong.
  • a White House appointee at the Review of U.S. Human Spaceflight Plans Committee from June-September 2009.

Dr. Chiao studied Chemical Engineering, earning a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1983. He continued his studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara, earning his Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in 1985 and 1987. Prior to joining NASA in 1990, he worked as a Research Engineer at Hexcel Corp. and then at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab.

Leroy‘s speaking topics are the following:

  • Leading in the International Arena
  • Positioning Your Endeavor – Technology Innovation Trends
  • Effective Problem Solving: How to Lead Like an Astronaut
  • Is It SADS, Or Am I in Space? Medical Considerations for Spaceflight

Contact us if you would like to Leroy Chiao to speak at your next conference.

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