More than 30 years ago, Fernbank Science Center aeronautics instructor Dr. Debi Huffman was promised a launch invitation by a seventh-grader who had dreams of becoming an astronaut.
Last week Eric Boe, a 1983 Henderson High School graduate, made good on his promise to Huffman for the second time. Huffman made a quick trip to Florida last week to see the launch of the final space shuttle Discovery mission, which was piloted by Boe.
“I knew when he was 12 he’d be able to do it,” said Huffman, who taught Boe in a 10-week science course at Fernbank. “I told him ‘when you go on a mission, I better be on your guest list.’ I’ve been invited twice.”
Boe, 46, attended the United States Air Force Academy after graduating from Henderson. He graduated from Air Force in 1987 with a bachelor of science degree in astronautical engineering, then earned a master of science degree in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech in 1997. Boe now lives in Texas with his wife and two children.
He was selected as a pilot by NASA in 2000 and was a member of the space shuttle Endeavor crew in 2008. When the Discovery lands on March 7, Boe will have logged 27 days in space.
Huffman viewed both launches as a VIP and was able to go to the launching pad where the crew and spouses were this time, she said. The shuttle launches are not the only times that Huffman has seen Boe over the years.
“He’s come back several times to Fernbank and was the VIP at Good Neighbor Day at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport before his first mission,” Huffman said. “He’s always so generous of his time. He talks to the kids and other groups about science and his experiences.”
Retired science teacher Barbara Olsen taught Boe in an eighth grade accelerated science class and in a 10th grade chemistry class at Henderson.
“He was just a good kid,” Olsen said. “He did things you wish your own children did. He always applied himself and was goal-oriented. He knew what he wanted to do.”
Boe was invited to Henderson Middle School for History Day after the 2008 launch, Olsen said. All of Boe’s teachers from the high school attended as Boe spoke to the entire student body. Thomas Marshburn, a 1978 graduate of Henderson High School, spoke a the middle school’s History Day the following year after his first space mission.
“We’re very proud of the fact that we have two astronauts from Henderson,” Olsen said. [Boe] has been wonderful in creating interest in science and showing what opportunities there are,” Olsen said.