John Herrington has taken in the earth from a view that few of us will every see. He spent 13 days in space as part of STS-113, a trip on Endeavor to the International Space Station in late 2002. It was a flight that included nearly 20 hours of space walks for the Mission Specialist. Now, "I want to see the earth from a different perspective," said Herrington.
It will definitely be different.
The former astronaut (and geekdad of two) leaves today on a 4,000 mile bike ride, beginning in Cape Flattery, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, and will travel through Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, before reaching his destination of Cape Canaveral, Florida. His progress can be tracked via Google Earth.
The solo coast-to-coast ride will include numerous stops to speak at schools and offer inspiration and encouragement to kids, especially in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
"Sometimes it takes someone outside of our normal circle of friends and family to shine a light in our direction and help us along," said Herrington. "As I set out on this bike ride and try to make the learning practical and fun, I hope to also show students that it takes commitment and effort, both mental and physical, to accomplish your goals."
Herrington plans to use his ride as a platform for getting kids excited about learning. Topics he plans to discuss include:
◦ Caloric intake and heart rate in relation to overall health
◦ Hydration, dehydration, hypothermia
◦ Weather, wind velocity, ground and air speed, relative motion
◦ Bike composition and weight/ comparison to space shuttle/station
◦ Bike maintenance and repair
◦ Getting power to electronics (i.e. batteries, solar)
◦ Global Positioning System (GPS)
◦ Digital camera technology
◦ Velocity and torque
◦ Mass and weight
◦ Friction and measurements
◦ Basic math
◦ Addition and subtraction
◦ Geometry, trigonometry and physics
For kids not on the route, Herrington’s lessons and thoughts can still be followed online. His bike is equipped with a laptop, broadband phone, GPS and digital camera. Herrington will be making daily entries to his blog and charting his progress.
Herrington hopes to motivate kids to pursue math and sciences. By failing to challenge ourselves with more difficult missions, "we’re going to see a serious shift in our technological lead in the world,” Herrington predicts. He hopes to change that outcome one pedal revolution, one child and one school at a time.