The only Iowa State University graduate who’s walked in space is back in the region this weekend for a rare event.
Retired astronaut Clay Anderson will be the guest of honor in his hometown for the unveiling of an exhibit about his career at the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum in Ashland, Nebraska, just southwest of Omaha.
Museum spokeswoman Deb Hermann says one item in the exhibit is very special.
“It took us about a year to raise enough money to acquire astronaut Clayton Anderson’s Sokol suit,” Hermann says.
“Sokol” is the Russian word for “falcon,” and it’s the spacesuit Anderson wore when he rocketed to the International Space Station in 2007, the first of his two missions in space.
Hermann says the spacesuit was made specifically for Anderson so it’s a one-of-a-kind item which had to be purchased from the Russian space program.
“It was an $80,000 project all in all,” she says. “We had a huge case built for it that would keep the suit intact.” The museum’s space station display includes a timeline of Anderson’s journey from Ashland into orbit.
During his two NASA missions, Anderson spent a total of 167 days in orbit. He’s written three books; the first was for adults, “The Ordinary Spaceman,” and two more that targeted children and young adult readers.
The 58-year-old Anderson will be welcomed at the museum about 5 PM Saturday for a full night of events.
“He will be the keynote speaker, he will stay for autographs,” Hermann says. “We have books for sale, some posters, and then we’re also going to do space activities and robotics with the kids throughout the night.”
Anderson received a master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University in 1983. He returned to I.S.U. as a distinguished faculty fellow in 2013 to teach aerospace engineering, though he’s currently living in the Houston, Texas area with his wife and two children.