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NASA astronaut Rick Mastracchio gives a graduation speech from space

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It is not unusual that a famous alumnus of a college or university will be tasked with making a graduation speech at the same said college or university. So it was only fitting that astronaut Rick Mastracchio, a graduate of the University of Connecticut’s school of engineering should find himself addressing the 2014 graduating students from that esteemed institution. But as UNCONN Today noted in a Saturday story, it was unusual, due to his work schedule, that Mastracchio was obliged to render his words of wisdom from 260 miles up from the International Space Station.

Mastracchio’s remarks, partly delivered from the ‘upside down” position in the micro gravity environment of the ISS was mostly his own life story as an inspiration to the newly graduated students. After having graduated from the University of Connecticut, he worked for a company called Hamilton Standard. He then moved to Houston to become a flight controller supporting space shuttle missions.

The real job Mastracchio wanted, being a well-educated young person in good health, was to be an astronaut. He first applied shortly after the space shuttle Challenger was destroyed in the skies over Florida. Nine years later, after multiple attempts and rejections, getting a second master’s degree at the University of Houston and a pilot’s license, he was accepted. Mastracchio subsequently flew as a Mission Specialist on STS-106, STS-118, and STS-131 and logged nearly 40 days in space, including six EVAs totaling 38 hours and 30 minutes. Mastracchio is currently on the ISS as the space station’s flight engineer.

The takeaway that Mastracchio wanted to impart to the students is that persistence and hard work can pay off. It is not an uncommon theme for a commencement speech. It is uncommon that it be delivered in such a manner, using the magic of modern communications technology.

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