The Color Out of Space: Crayola Experience hosts astronaut John Shoffner
EASTON, Pa. — Children and parents got a chance to learn all about space travel Friday, when astronaut John Shoffner touched down for a visit at Crayola Experience.
In a series of short but stellar presentations at Crayola Experience’s theater, Shoffner regaled the audience with tales of what inspired him to become an astronaut, the training he went through for a mission to the International Space Station, and what life in space is really like.
Shoffner said that ever since he was a child, he was enamored with the cosmos. He said he even formed a young astronauts’ club with his friends in his hometown of Middlesboro, Kentucky, when he was a child following the Gemini and Apollo missions.
- Astronaut John Shoffner came to Crayola Experience in Easton on Friday
- Shoffner explained how space training, the voyage and the return home worked, highlighting interesting facts and sprinkling in-jokes along the way
- Children were given an opportunity to ask Shoffner questions about his time in space, and to take pictures with the astronaut
After investing 20 years in the world of fiber optics with his company Dura-Line, Shoffner said he chose to pursue his dreams: cycling, whitewater kayaking, waterskiing, hang gliding, skydiving, base jumping and even participating in professional motorsports.
“Spaceflight is hard work. It's not just going up there and floating around. It's actually challenging and fast-paced. Our mission was pretty short, it was 10 days, so getting a lot done in 10 days, you have to really, really stay on it. So the most striking moments were taking a break, a breather, from hard work and just looking at the beauty of the earth watching us just endlessly sail around it. It's really, really awesome."Astronaut John Shoffner
When given the chance to join Axiom Space's Ax-2 mission, which launched in May 2023, Shoffner jumped at the chance to make the ultimate voyage.
Passing on the inspiration
On Friday, Shoffner passed on that inspiration he carried from his childhood on to a new generation, telling them about the grand experience of space travel and encouraging the kids to dream big.
“We're here just to share the joy of spaceflight and share with the audience of Crayola what living in space and being in space means, and what they can do with it as well."Astronaut John Shoffner
“We're here just to share the joy of spaceflight and share with the audience of Crayola what living in space and being in space means, and what they can do with it as well,” Shoffner said.
During his Ax-2 mission, Shoffner and his fellow astronauts had partnered with Crayola to sponsor an “art in space” program, with a contest for art and poetry for ages 5 to 18.
The prompt asked those artists to interpret their vision of living in space, and it drew more than 930 entries from 26 countries.
“It's interesting to me, what we saw from the contest was even students at an age where we know space is not taught specifically, they already have visions and ideas," Shoffner said.
"Very, very good ones, of what living and being in space is like. So that's very interesting to us."
Sprinkling in a few space jokes here and there — "Why did the sun go to college? Some suns want to get brighter!" — Shoffner discussed the strenuous, but exciting, training required to make it into space.
He also spoke about the intense workload required when you get to the ISS, and how even the most basic things must be re-learned in a new environment.
A feat-inducing feat
And, of course, with a room filled with children, someone was eventually going to breach the subject of using the bathroom in space.
Shoffner said it's a fear-inducing feat.
"The use of a toilet scares everyone, because no astronaut wants to be an astronaut that breaks the toilet,” he said.
Speaking of potty humor, Shoffner surprised the crowd with a little fact few people consider about how astronauts get their water in space.
“How many of you think that astronauts drink their own pee? No, nobody thinks that," he said. "But we do, we drink 97% of the pee, which is recycled into fresh clean drinking water."
He said water is heavy and therefore expensive to send into orbit.
"The most striking moments were taking a break, a breather, from hard work and just looking at the beauty of the Earth, watching us just endlessly sail around it. It's really, really awesome."Astronaut John Shoffner
Beyond everyday accommodations — Velcroing items to tables to keep them from floating away, exercising up to two hours daily to keep healthy, and so on — Shoffner said one of his favorite things about the voyage was the small moments when he got to really appreciate where he was.
“Spaceflight is hard work, it's not just going up there and floating around, it's actually challenging and fast-paced," he said. "Our mission was pretty short, it was 10 days, so getting a lot done in 10 days, you have to really, really stay on it.
"So the most striking moments were taking a break, a breather, from hard work and just looking at the beauty of the Earth, watching us just endlessly sail around it. It's really, really awesome."
The future of space travel
Andrew Notebart, 10 of Long Island, New York, said he enjoyed the presentation, particularly “when they use the windows to look down on Earth.”
He said he might be interested in traveling to space himself one day.
“I think [Shoffner] did a really good job, especially talking to the younger kids in the crowd and making sure that they were interactive, so they stayed awake and interacted with him,” Andrew’s father, Michael Notebart, said.
Shoffner said he was delighted with the “marvelous questions” the kids had for him, which showed him a passion he also exhibited for the future of space travel when he was a child.
“Well, you know, the future of space is in the hands of the people you see in the room today."Astronaut John Shoffner
And while so many of those children aspire to become astronauts, Shoffner said he loves to show the audience how many opportunities there are to share in the space program, even if you don’t want to venture past the atmosphere.
“A girl today said, ‘I don't want to go to space, I want to be a vet,’" Shoffer said. "And I said, ‘OK, it's interesting because we have a lot of science and animal technology that we study in space. And we have to care for the animals on Earth and in space, so you can be a part of spaceflight and still stay on the ground.’
"You can be a graphics designer and be part of spaceflight, communications, technology, engineering and development.”
With his fellow astronauts, Shoffner said he hopes to promote the notion to each and every child who aims to contribute to a vibrant future of space travel that they can do great things.
That's a lesson that hit home with just about every child — and child at heart — in the audience Friday.
“Well, you know, the future of space is in the hands of the people you see in the room today," Shoffner said.
"The young people that will grow up and be the participants, and the people that manage and control and design spaceflight."