A Space Shuttle astronaut made an inspiring connection with about 100 Anchorage-area schoolchildren Tuesday.
Dr. John Grunsfeld, who in 2009 headed the team of spacewalking astronauts who saved the Hubble Space Telescope, had a new mission during this year's 220th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Anchorage: talking with youngsters interested in a science eduction.
Grunsfeld lives in the Washington, D.C. area but he has strong connections to Alaska. He's visited the state six times, and in 2004 became one of only two astronauts ever to summit Mount McKinley.
During the astronomical society's meeting, at which top scientists discuss the expansion of the universe as well as the physics of stars and the sun, Grunsfeld showed the children video shot from the International Space Station. The clip provided a view of the aurora borealis that only a handful of people have seen firsthand, looking down on the solar-wind phenomenon from an altitude of 240 miles.
The youngsters, ranging in age from elementary school students on up to high school students, seemed awed by the video.
They were also treated to a picture of Cook Inlet as seen from the space shuttle. The photo was shot from such a high altitude that the city of Anchorage was entirely covered by the tip of an arrow pointing out the city.
"That was super-cool," said one 11-year-old girl after the show.
Grunsfeld says he himself was 11 years old in 1969 -- the year of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing, which helped inspire him to become an astronaut.
Email Dan Fiorucci