The Iowa native who piloted the shuttle Discovery to the International Space Station –and back– last month is returning to his home state to talk to students about his trip.Jim Kelly graduated from Burlington High in 1982 and returns in a few weeks as an astronaut to be inducted into the school’s Hall of Honor. The Discovery flight was the first time in orbit for the 37-year-old father of four. He says living in the weightless environment was “incredible.” He says when you first get out of your seat, you move tremendously easily as the bulky flight suit is weightless.Kelly expects to train next for “capcom” or the job of capsule communicator, the person who talks to the shuttle astronauts from the ground. He hopes to be assigned someday to another mission on the shuttle too. The Air Force Lieutenant Colonel says one thing he quickly learned in orbit on the 13-day mission was how to properly eat a meal. He says in space you have to heat things up and rehydrate them. He says you also have to worry about spraying fluid all over the place, as it floats around.One of Kelly’s better memories of the mission was when he rode an exercise bike on the shuttle flight deck as they passed over Africa during a nighttime thunderstorm. He watched as lightning flashed from cloud to cloud, then as the sun rose on the horizon. In addition to being added to his alma mater’s Hall of Honor, Kelly will address Burlington High students on graduation day, June 2nd. The city council has also declared that to be “Jim Kelly Day.” He says he’s a bit overwhelmed by the praise. He says most of the time he just feels like a guy doing a job.Kelly, who now lives in Houston, will speak at schools in Danville, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, hoping to inspire more young Iowans to follow his path into space. His mother-in-law is a 4th grade teacher in Mediapolis, so he’ll meet her class in a few weeks too.
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