NASA astronaut to visit, give talks to students

HEALY — A former NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander will visit with students from Nenana, Anderson, Cantwell and Healy next week. A community meet-and-greet is also planned at the Tri-Valley Community Library at 6 p.m. April 18.

Dr. Leroy Chiao has logged more than 229 days in space on four space missions, including six spacewalks and supporting ISS design and construction. Since leaving NASA, he has worked with various technology companies and organizations.

His message to students is about the importance of having dreams and passions and also having the courage to follow those dreams. Chiao, a child of immigrants, was often a victim of bullying. He found ways to turn that negative energy into something positive. He describes the importance of hard work, persistence and making the right choices. He will share photos of Earth taken from space and talk about his space missions.

Accompanying him is Jamie Sunkel, president and co-founder of OneOrbit, an international company that provides workshops and education programs based on space flight.

They are regular visitors to Fairbanks. But this visit, they will head to outlying communities and share their knowledge and enthusiasm for space.

“I am so excited that the outlying schools get to have the opportunity that Fairbanks has had,” said Marci Ward, who organized the visit. “Dr. Leroy Chiao is very inspiring.”

Ward, an elementary teacher at Immaculate Conception School in Fairbanks is a Space Foundation liaison teacher, runs a space club for elementary students at her school and also spearheads space camp every summer at the Pioneer Air Museum.

They will talk with students in Nenana and Healy/Cantwell on April 18 and visit Anderson School on April 19. Their visit is sponsored by Pogo Mine.

Honoring hockey team

The Healy Hockey community joined an international  commemoration this week to honor the 15 Humbolt Broncos hockey team members from Saskatchewan who were killed recently in a terrible traffic accident.

Lights remained on all night Monday at the Healy Ice Pit and hockey sticks lined the outside of the rink, sticking up in the snow.

Winnipeg Jets broadcaster Brian Muenz had radioed this message, “Leaving it on the porch tonight. The boys might need it … wherever they are.”

Many porch lights throughout the Denali Borough also remained on, with a hockey stick leaning against the front door. People who didn’t have a stick, left a helmet or some other piece of hockey equipment on the porch instead.

The hockey community here spends a lot of time driving to tournaments and games in communities many hours away, usually during winter weather. So the inherent danger of driving is always there.

“Driving takes its toll on too many of us,” wrote Healy Hockey in a Facebook post.

Tri-Valley Gas also set up a donation jar for the Humboldt Team with a promise to match up to $500.

“Even though there is no monetary value that can replace what they have lost, we want to show our support,” owner Jason Wells said. “Thanks for the support you give us to allow us to give back.”

Local hockey players are also participating in some fundraising events in Fairbanks, in honor of the Masterson family. Coach Shawn Masterson died in a car accident in early March on the way home from a hockey tournament. To learn more about those events, see