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Astronaut on NASA launch attended school in Peabody

Sophomore Sarah Spencer wants to follow in his footsteps

Staff writer

Peabody-Burns sophomore Sarah Spencer has been interested in the national space program since fourth grade, and she jumped at the chance to join a small group of people who gathered at Coneburg Inn early Thursday to observe the televised launch of a Russian Soyez space rocket from Kazakhstan.

The rocket was headed for the International Space Station, and one of the two astronauts on board was Nick Hague, who spent many of his early years in Peabody.

Family members had come from near and far to watch the launch together, and community members were invited to join them.

Sarah said she and her mother, Tina Spencer, got up at 3 a.m. to join the group for the 3:40 a.m. launch.

“Everyone was excited,” Sarah said. “There was a lot of clapping and cheering when the rocket took off.”

The mood of the group changed quickly when one of the rocket’s boosters failed shortly after takeoff, and the launch had to be aborted.

“A lot of people were nervous, especially his close family,” Sarah said.

For 20 minutes, they had no idea what was happening.

Victor Glover, a NASA astronaut who attended the event, announced that the astronauts were making a steep, fast return to earth. An hour and a half later rescue crews reported the two were in good condition.

That day, Sarah listened as Glover, in a NASA flight suit, spoke to students at Peabody-Burns High School. She was inspired.

“It was a great presentation,” she said. “I liked learning about the things he did to become an astronaut. It made me want to be an astronaut.”

She has attended two space camps at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, where she studied the space program. She plans to get an advanced college degree in a STEM field and eventually apply to become an astronaut.

“There are thousands of applications every year, and only two get accepted,” she said.

The gathering was covered by the Wichita Eagle and reported by the Newton Kansan and kwch.com.

Lindsay Marshall of Peabody organized the family gathering. She was Nick Hague’s friend when he attended elementary school there. His father, Don, was high school principal from 1982 to 1989.

“We liked to sit up on top of our roofs and look at the stars with our telescopes, our little telescopes,” she said. “I was sitting next to Nick when the Challenger happened. We were sitting in our library class when it happened. We were all watching it, and I remember that moment so clearly.”

Hague’s family moved to Hoxie later, where he graduated from high school in 1994. He earned a bachelor’s degree in astronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy and a master’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was accepted for astronaut training in 2013 and completed it in 2015.

Marshall was sad that Hague didn’t get to complete his mission but was sure he will be ready to try it again when he gets a chance.

Nick’s parents attended Florence and Marion schools. Willard and Earlene Hague and Carl and Ruth Elling were his grandparents.

Last modified Oct. 18, 2018

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