Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by WonderTeam. WonderTeam Wonders, “Who is John Herringon?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, WonderTeam!

If you’ve been WONDERing with us for a while, you might know a thing or two about space travel. You might dream of living in an O’Neill Colony or of working with astronauts like Mae Jemison. Today, we’re learning about another pioneer in space travel—John Herrington!

John Herrington is a member of the Chickasaw Nation. He was born in Oklahoma on September 14, 1958. Growing up, Herrington moved around a lot with his family. By the time he graduated high school in 1976, the family had moved 14 times. At that time, Herrington lived in Plano, Texas.

After high school, Herrington enrolled in college. However, he soon left school and moved to Colorado. There, he worked as a surveyor. As part of this job, Herrington spent a great deal of time in the mountains. He also found he had a special talent and enjoyment of math and problem solving.

This inspired Herrington to return to college. He started studying at the University of Colorado. In 1983, he graduated with a degree in applied mathematics. After graduation, he joined the U.S. Navy as an Aviator.

Herrington had long dreamed of becoming a pilot, and this position helped him reach this goal. He excelled in the Navy. He served as a mission commander and later as a project test pilot. In 1995, he earned a master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. 

The following year, NASA selected Herrington to be an astronaut. He supported several missions through the Space Shuttle Program over the next few years. In 2002, Herrington went to space on the Endeavour shuttle. 

Herrington’s mission was to safely deliver new astronauts to the International Space Station. He also helped deliver supplies and other cargo to the ISS. While there, Herrington performed three spacewalks outside the ISS. He returned home after nearly two weeks in space.

John Herrington was the first Chickasaw man in space. In fact, he was the first person registered in any American Indian nation to travel into Earth’s orbit. Herrington brought a few items along on his mission to represent his heritage. This included the flag of the Chickasaw nation, six eagle feathers, and two arrowheads. He also carried a traditional Chickasaw flute.

After his time at NASA, Herrington earned a Phd in education. Today, he works to support science, technology, engineering, and math education for American Indian youth. Herrington also wrote a children’s book, “Mission to Space,” in 2016. 

Herrington is a member of both the Chickasaw Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. He’s also earned the Legion of Merit and Navy Commendation Medal, among other awards. He is also married to his wife, Debra, and has two children.

Do you dream of visiting the ISS one day? Would you like to do a spacewalk like John Herrington? Keep working hard and one day, you may just get that chance!

Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.R.3, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.W.1, CCRA.SL.4, CCRA.L.2, NCAS.A.1, NCAS.A.2, NCAS.A.3

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