Astronauts will mix drinks, sign books and regale guests with stories from history-making NASA missions as part of a week of virtual events that redefine what it means to rendezvous in space.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's annual Space Rendezvous convention has moved online this year and in doing so, has come up with new ways for space explorers to interact with the public. Tickets are available now for the 2020 Virtual Space Rendezvous, which will run from Monday, Nov. 2 through Saturday, Nov. 8.
"This year's Space Rendezvous will be brought to you!" the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) wrote on its website. "We have switched our gears to create a virtual Space Rendezvous."
The scheduled events kick off with a chat and book signing with Rhea Seddon, one of the first six women selected for NASA's astronaut corps in 1978. Seddon, who launched on three space shuttle missions, will talk with participants while personalizing copies of her book, "Go For Orbit" on Wednesday, Nov. 4 (the books will then be mailed to their new owners).
That same day spacewalker Tom Jones will discuss his four space shuttle flights, including his experience helping to install the U.S. laboratory module "Destiny" on the International Space Station. Attendees will be able to ask questions and each will receive a bookplate-signed copy of Jones' memoirs, "Sky Walking."
On Wednesday evening, the seven astronauts who launched on the space shuttle Endeavour's first mission, STS-49, will reunite for a special panel discussion. Mission commander Dan Brandenstein, pilot Kevin Chilton and mission specialists Rick Hieb, Bruce Melnick, Pierre Thuot, Kathy Thornton and Tom Akers will recount their nine days in orbit together, which featured the first and only three-person spacewalk in history. (collectSPACE.com editor Robert Pearlman will moderate the hour-long event.)
On Thursday, Nov. 5, the "most vertical girl in the world," astronaut and aquanaut Kathy Sullivan will share her experiences exploring outer space and the bottom of the sea. The first American woman to walk in space, Sullivan flew three times into orbit, including on the shuttle mission that deployed the Hubble Space Telescope. Earlier this year, Sullivan became the first woman and eighth person in history to reach the deepest point on Earth, Challenger Deep, in the Western Pacific Ocean.
Sullivan will respond to guests' questions and attendees will receive a bookplate-signed copy of her book, "Handprints on Hubble," along with a pack of Stargazer Coffee from Copper Moon.
Also on Thursday, former NASA Administrator and Under Secretary of Defense Michael Griffin will discuss "Challenging Decisions from an Aerospace Career," sharing his experiences from a half century in aerospace.
That evening, a trio of astronauts will play virtual bartender as they face off in a mixology competition while guiding attendees through the recipes. Rhea Seddon will join former shuttle commanders Scott Altman and Charlie Precourt, each a veteran of four space missions, to see who is better at stirring up spirits.
Two days later on Saturday, Nov. 8, the drinks will flow again for an astronaut-hosted wine tasting. Participants will each receive a bottle of Rocket Science Proprietary Red to drink along with space shuttle and International Space Station astronaut Dan Bursch and vintner John Caldwell. (This event has sold out, but the ASF has started a waitlist.)
Throughout the week, participants can take part in a virtual 5K walk, jog or run. Those who submit proof of completion, such as a screenshot from a fitness tracker app or a photo of a treadmill's stats, will receive an exclusive ASF race medal.
Tickets for the 2020 Virtual Space Rendezvous are available on an event-by-event basis, with prices ranging from $25 to $150 each. Ticket sales will end on Monday.
Founded by the Mercury astronauts, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation uses the proceeds from its annual events to help fund the more than 50 scholarships it awards to college students who are excelling in science, technology, engineering and mathematics degrees. To date, the ASF has awarded more than $5 million to over 600 students at 41 U.S. universities.
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Robert Pearlman is a space historian, journalist and the founder and editor of collectSPACE.com, an online publication and community devoted to space history with a particular focus on how and where space exploration intersects with pop culture. Pearlman is also a contributing writer for Space.com and co-author of "Space Stations: The Art, Science, and Reality of Working in Space” published by Smithsonian Books in 2018. He previously developed online content for the National Space Society and Apollo 11 moonwalker Buzz Aldrin, helped establish the space tourism company Space Adventures and currently serves on the History Committee of the American Astronautical Society, the advisory committee for The Mars Generation and leadership board of For All Moonkind. In 2009, he was inducted into the U.S. Space Camp Hall of Fame in Huntsville, Alabama. In 2021, he was honored by the American Astronautical Society with the Ordway Award for Sustained Excellence in Spaceflight History.