By Maria A. Cortes
Last Friday, Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, ex NASA astronaut and a member of Astronaut Scholarship Foundation presented one of the Tufts students, Samuel Bashevkin, with prestigious $10,000 Astronaut Scholarship. The event, held at the Alumnae Lounge on the Tufts campus, started with the short introduction by Tufts President Anthony Monaco and proceeded with the presentation of the award to Samuel Bashevkin, followed by his acceptance speech, and, finally, with Dr. Hoffman’s talk about his career as an astronaut and the future of space exploration. Guests were invited to the luncheon that followed the presentation.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was established by the six members of NASA’s special group of astronauts referred to as the Mercury Seven astronauts. The purpose of Astronaut Scholarship is to award students who have shown academic excellence in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The first Astronaut Scholarships, at $1,000 each, were awarded in 1986. Now the Scholarship is awarded annually for 28 students in universities all over the country that are partners with the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation. Since other astronauts joined the foundation in order to keep awarding exceptional students, the Astronaut Scholarship has sufficiently grown and is now one of the largest awards in the country.
Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, a member of the Foundation, presented the award this year at Tufts University. A former NASA astronaut, Dr. Hoffman is currently teaching at the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT. Throughout his career, Dr. Hoffman participated in five space missions. When asked about his flights, he calls it “an overwhelming experience.” He describes the shuttle launch as “ground is shaking, vibration is hitting you in chest.” He mentioned that the only thought he had in his head was, “I hope this thing holds together.”
Dr. Hoffman is highly interested in the future exploration of the space, the moon and Mars in particular. He sees great opportunities in the private sector and for private space travel. At the event, he talked about the results that were already achieved in the private sector by people like Robert Bigelow (the founder of Bigelow Aerospace), Jeff Bezos (the founder and CEO of Amazon.com), Richard Branson (chairman of Virgin Group), and Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft Corporation). Paul Allen, for instance, invested money into building a “SpaceShipOne” private spacecraft and Jeff Bezos founded the “Blue Origin” human spaceflight company.
This year, one of the Astronaut Scholarships was awarded to Tufts student Samuel Bashevkin. Bashevkin is a junior at Tufts and is majoring in biology. For his outstanding academic achievements, he was nominated for Astronaut Scholarship by one of his professors and subsequently won the prestigious award. Bashevkin is planning to continue his studies in a doctorate program in marine biology.