Teaching continues for Shoffner long after landing

Published 1:34 pm Thursday, September 7, 2023

By Jordan Brooks


Earlier this year, Middlesboro native John Shoffner spent time on the Axiom Space Ax-2 mission to the International Space Station, and filmed a series of educational videos demonstrating life in microgravity.

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The videos premiered and went out to educators everywhere on Aug. 29, opening the door to an improved local STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Technology) education for Middlesboro Schools, and the conversation about future of life in space.

Alongside mission commander Peggy Whitson, an American biochemistry researcher and retired NASA astronaut, Shoffner served as pilot on the mission. This was the second private mission in history to the ISS launched on a Falcon 9 rocket aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

Throughout the duration of the mission, Shoffner hosted live events with schools around the world. From Ireland, Portugal, to his hometown of Middlesboro, Ky as well as many other schools, Shoffner worked to foster student curiosity about space and open up the conversation about space travel and life in space. On top of filming educational videos, he facilitated an International Space Art and Poetry contest that garnered over 930 entries from 26 countries, and participated in technology experiments that will shape the future of space exploration.

Shoffner said when he was a student, schools weren’t equipped to serve his dream of going to space.

“I got to go to space, and I got to do something else that I love, which is talk about space. When I was 10, 12 years old – when the space race was just beginning – all I wanted to do was go to space, said Shoffner. “I got to go to space, but now I get a chance to speak back to those 10-12 year olds today to look to their chance to go to space.”

To bridge the gap between students’ existing knowledge about life on Earth and life under microgravity, the Perseid Foundation was created. The Perseid Foundation is dedicated to improving education in underserved schools of Appalachia with programs for student growth and STEAM curriculum development.

A native of Middlesboro and a resident of Knoxville, Shoffner says the videos were produced to help make them relevant to kids.

“Just wait till you get up here and try it for yourself,” Shoffner encourages viewers in each video.

Whitson also encourages kids to follow their dreams should they lead them to space.

“I think it’s important to encourage them to pursue those dreams of going into space,” said Whitson. “They might be the youngest person to go into space–the only way you’re going to find out is to pursue those dreams.”

All of the videos cover life in space and with microgravity, and include many different topics. The full list of videos include: Conservation of Momentum, How Astronauts Sleep, Surface Tension, Entertain Me, Play Ball, What Astronauts Wear, Amateur Radio, Momentum, How Astronauts Eat in Space, Water Recovery System, Science on the ISS (Life Science Glovebox), View from Here (Cupola), Photography on the ISS, Space Toilet, How Astronauts go on Spacewalks, Art Contest.

All videos are 2-3 minutes in length and can be found at perseidfoundation.org/resources.