U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson spoke to Florida A&M University students Monday about his experience in space. He also promoted taking STEM subjects. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.
Nelson said he hopes the movie “Hidden Figures” inspires students at the historically black college. The movie highlights the work of African American women who worked as skilled mathematicians during the early years of the U-S space program.
“There’s a happy ending to this story because Katherine Johnson lived to see an African American president," he said. "Shortly after he was sworn in as president, he presented the presidential Medal of Freedom to Katherine Johnson. She was about 95 at the time.”
As a Congressman, Nelson orbited Earth for almost a week in 1986. He landed just before the space shuttle Challenger exploded ten days later, killing all on board.
“We were the most delayed flight ever," he said. "We scrubbed four times on the pad over a month before we finally launched on the fifth try into an almost flawless six-day mission.”
The U.S. Senate recently approved Nelson’s legislation giving $19.5 billion dollars to NASA to travel to Mars. Nelson said the plan to go to Mars in 2023 is “doable.”
“NASA goes for deep space exploration and the commercial rockets take us into low-Earth orbit to and from the International Space Station,” he said.
Nelson’s legislation requires NASA to establish a human colony on Mars. It now moves to the House.