The astronaut who will become the first-ever Iowa State University graduate to blast off into space is preparing for his journey of a lifetime. Forty-seven-year-old Clayton Anderson is scheduled to ride the shuttle Endeavour next June to the International Space Station, where he’ll spend up to four months.

Besides the physical rigors and the mental demands, from speaking Russian to performing a host of science experiments, Anderson will spend all that time away from his wife and two kids, ages five and ten. Anderson says “It will be difficult but my wife does work at NASA and she understands what it’s about so her strength and leadership and understanding will help as well.”

Anderson says “I love my kids. I love spending time with them as well as my wife, so the e-mail helps. We’ll do video conferences once a week where I’ll be able to see them, we’ll be able to talk to each other and see each other. We’ll also have a phone that allows us to call daily, if we can, if we have the coverage through the satellites.”

Anderson is a native of Ashland, Nebraska, got his B-S at Hastings College in Nebraska and his master of science degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State in 1981. During his months in orbit, he hopes to be working with students and scientists on the ground in both states. Anderson says “We will, for sure, have some (experiments) to fly and I definitely want to some public events with them from the station. The exact content or the time haven’t been determined but I’m trying to do that between both Nebraska, where I grew up, and Iowa State, where I was a student. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get both states involved.”

His hometown is 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 and should 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.”