SJT gives astronaut alumnus award

GW alumnus and NASA astronaut Charlie Camarda, who has logged more than 333 total hours in space, shared his recent experiences aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery with students and faculty during a speech Tuesday night.

About 70 students and guests attended the event in the Elliott School of International Affairs building to hear Camarda’s first-hand account of his journey into space from July 26 to Aug. 9 as a mission specialist. The event, the fourth in a series of “How Do I Become A …” guest lectures, was hosted by the GW Alumni Association and Class Council.

The evening also served as an honorary ceremony, in which University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg presented Camarda with the President’s Medal. Trachtenberg acknowledged and praised the accomplishments of Camarda, who holds a master’s degree from GW’s engineering school.

“Of all the things you could imagine a GW alumnus doing, going into space has to got to be at the top of the A-list,” Trachtenberg said at the event. “It is a proud moment to me, the kind of moment that, frankly, a university president lives for.”

Camarda used a video presentation to coincide with his speech, allowing the audience to visualize the complex nature of the tasks he faced during his time aboard the shuttle. Throughout the video, Camarda paused at specific scenes to recount his journey in space.

Camarda said the crew aboard his mission was the first to have been able to inspect their shuttle while in orbit, showing footage of the removal of heat-resistant material from NASA video recordings during the mission.

“A couple of inches of (those) pieces could have caused serious damage if not removed,” he told the audience as they viewed an astronaut removing part of the material from the shuttle’s exterior.

The travelogue of his journey also included footage of the crew’s daily life aboard the shuttle, their flight back home and Camarda’s personal description of each crew member.

Camarda thanked GW for the medal and in return presented the University with a GW banner that he had brought with him into space.

“I am just completely humbled and don’t know what to say to receive an award like this,” he said. “I was honored to fly this banner from GWU on the orbiter.”

After his presentation, Camarda met with students and other guests in the lobby outside the auditorium, taking questions and offering advice to many engineering students interested in his role aboard Discovery.

“I want people to understand how important and how critical engineering is,” Camarda said in an interview with The Hatchet following the event. “We need to graduate more engineering students and show them what is important about engineering.”

“It’s easy for me to climb in and get strapped into a rocket and get all this glory and get all this praise, when really, I can tell you the names of some key individuals around the country, that because of their expertise, they actually made this mission possible and made it safe,” he said. “Those are the people that are the real heroes and deserve a tremendous amount of credit.”

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