Coconut Grove-born NASA astronaut wows RE students
Retired NASA astronaut and Coconut Grove native Winston E. Scott captivated the Ransom Everglades student body Feb. 8 with harrowing tales of his shuttle journeys and earlier flights as a naval fighter pilot. Scott, one of the nation's first African-American astronauts, executed three spacewalks, logged more than three weeks in space and helped rescue a malfunctioning satellite by grabbing it with gloved hands.
He spoke to Upper School students in the morning and met with Middle School students in the afternoon.
Also an expert trumpet player, Scott kicked off his morning appearance with an impromptu performance with the RE Combo that drew rousing cheers. Scott attended what was then George Washington Carver High School until the integration of Dade County Schools; he finished his high school education at Coral Gables High, then went on to Florida State where he earned a bachelor's degree in music.
"I am at home," he said during his appearance at the Upper School. "I grew up right in Coconut Grove. I could walk to the house I grew up in from this campus in probably 15 minutes!"
Scott received an MS in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, then served for more than a decade as a U.S. Navy officer and aviator. He flew more than 20 different aircraft during his career – including the plane Tom Cruise flew in the movie Top Gun. "He flew it in the movies," Scott said, "I flew it for real." In 1992, he was accepted to NASA's astronaut program. He flew on the shuttles Endeavor (nine days) and Columbia (16 days).
He offered students incredible insight and detail into his trips into space. He explained the underwater training, pre-trip quarantine, weather-proof equipment, massive acceleration at launch (rockets accelerate to 17,500 miles per hour in 8.5 seconds), and disorientation experienced while watching the earth's horizon appear to move as the shuttle rapidly orbits the earth.
He also explained how he and a fellow astronaut exited a shuttle and anchored their space boots to the craft in order to jointly grab a lost satellite.
"It was wobbling kind of all over in space... and we couldn't catch it," he said. But "this thing cost $10 million. We had to bring it back home."
They did manage to capture the wayward satellite, and Scott called it one of the most exhilarating experiences of his life. Scott received a standing ovation at the conclusion of his Upper School presentation. He currently teaches in the College of Aeronautics at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Fla.
Before departing the Upper School, Scott met with students in the RE Flyers club and club advisor Astrid Dalins. Stories about the visit aired on WTVJ NBC6 and WPLG Local 10; both stations filmed the morning assembly and interviewed students Paulina Pages '18 and Joshua Williams '18.
Middle School band director Cathi Leibinger arranged for Scott’s visit, part of the school's celebration of Black History Month. Ernest Green, one of the “Little Rock Nine” – the group of the students that desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, Ark., in 1957 after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in the Brown vs. Board of Education case – will speak at Ransom Everglades at 7 p.m. Feb. 12 in an event open to the community.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.