October 23, 2014

Astronaut & ISU grad is hanging up his space helmet

Clay Anderson aboard the International Space Station

Clay Anderson aboard the International Space Station

The first and only Iowa State University graduate to see the Earth from orbit has announced he’s retiring from NASA.

Astronaut Clay Anderson has spent 30 years pursuing his passion for space travel and confirmed his retirement on his Twitter account. During a mission to the International Space Station in 2010, he told Radio Iowa about the thrill of taking a spacewalk.

“I go outside the vehicle in outer space and I’m only hanging on by a small, braided wire and a couple extra tethers, and I can turn around and flip around and look at Earth at any time,” Anderson says. “It’s just a spectacular feeling to be floating so unencumbered in outer space in such a dangerous yet such a beautiful environment.”

The 53-year-old says he and his family will continue to live in Houston, Texas, for the timebeing but could move back to Nebraska in the months ahead.

Anderson spent five months aboard the space station in 2007. He says one memory he’ll always carry is from his first E-V-A, which is NASA-speak for extra-vehicular activity, or spacewalk.

Anderson says: “My first E-V-A of my whole life, I was outside and I was getting ready to start to do some work and I looked and I saw the moon coming over the horizon of the earth and it was one of the most beautiful sights that I’ve ever seen. I actually just sat there and thought, ‘Holy smoke. I can’t believe that I’m doing this.’ It was pretty impressive and it left a great imprint in my mind.”

Anderson is from Ashland, Nebraska, a small community between Lincoln and Omaha, so he considers himself a small-town guy. Anderson says today’s students have more opportunities than ever before and should they pursue their dreams — even into space.

“It doesn’t matter how small a town you come from or what your background is. If you want to do something badly enough and you’re willing to work hard enough, it’s always a possibility. To all the kids in the state of Nebraska and Iowa that go to small consolidated schools and think this is something that’s out of their reach, all they have to do is look to what I’ve been able to accomplish and they should know that they can do the exact same thing if they want to.”

Anderson got a bachelor of science degree in physics at Hastings College in 1981 and a master of science in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University in 1983.