By Sawyer Pollitt, Staff Writer
The atmosphere in the main auditorium at UMass Dartmouth on March 6 was one of immense pride and hope in the future. The room was a buzz as crowds of staff, faculty, university students, elementary and middle schoolers, and distinguished guests filed in and came together. The audience arrived to participate in the NASA live link with UMass Dartmouth alum, United States Navy Captain and Astronaut Scott Tingle who is currently orbiting the Earth in the International Space Station.
This event gives the UMass Dartmouth community a rare opportunity to not only talk to one of the few people who aren’t on the surface of the Earth, but to someone who attended UMass Dartmouth, set astronomical goals, and rose to meet the challenge he set for himself.
Beginning with an introduction by Chancellor Johnson as well as Interim Dean of the College of Engineering and Moderator Dr. Ramprasad Balasubramanian, Scott Tingle’s mother Sheila Tingle, and two of Scott’s professors at Southeastern Massachusetts University Dr. Ron DePippo and Dr. John Rice. The audience learned that Scott Tingle received his Bachelors of science degree in mechanical engineering from UMass Dartmouth in 1987, received his Masters of science in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 1988, and can count amongst his achievements, 750 landings of a fighter jet on aircraft carriers, as well as a seven-and-half hour spacewalk outside the International Space Station.
While the quantifiable achievements that he holds under his belt are certainly impressive, it was clear that Scott and all others involved wanted people to take away something special from this event. Time and time again, as every speaker took the podium they praised Scott’s work ethic and his determination to go against the grain and carve out the life that he wanted. One of Scott’s past professors remarked that he asked for a challenge. He came to college with a clear goal in mind and would accept nothing less than the fulfillment of that goal.
As the question and answer portion of the event began and Scott Tingle appeared on the live link from Earth’s orbit, the room erupted into applause. After a brief check-in with NASA mission control, a set of pre-selected questions were asked to the UMass alum floating above us.
While there were many interesting questions such as “How is the food on the International Space Station?” and “What kind of training did you have to go through?” the most poignant questions were those that gave answers that did more than just inform the audience, they inspired those in attendance.
When asked how to deal with naysayers who challenged his dreams Scott replied, “They’re just fuel for the fire,” and when asked what advice he would give to the class of 2018, he said “When you go out, you have to work hard, set your goals high, and pick hard jobs.” To answer one of the last and most thought provoking questions regarding how being in space has shifted his humanitarian outlook, Scott replied that we humans are lucky to live on the beautiful planet that we do, and that from space there are no boarders or nationalities. He eloquently stated, “We all need each other to survive.”
These important messages and life lessons were hammered home by a man who just like many of those in the audience, was born and raised in Massachusetts and attended UMass Dartmouth with only a dream and the motivation to achieve that dream. As the NASA live link shut off, the entire crowd turned and waved goodbye to astronaut Scott Tingle, who went back to living his dream aboard the International Space Station.