PITTSFIELD, Maine — A banner that has flown to the International Space Station and back will return to Maine Central Institute on Friday, providing students and staff now and in the future with something that has traveled farther than anything else they might ever see.
U.S. Navy Capt. Stephen Bowen, a NASA astronaut, approached the school earlier this year — before his trip to the space station aboard the space shuttle Atlantis — to ask whether there was anything that MCI would like sent into outer space. MCI in turn asked a Pittsfield-based manufacturer of religious vestments and ceremonial pieces, CM Almy, to create an MCI banner for the trip.
Bowen, the parent of a former MCI student, will visit the school on Friday to present the banner, along with a lecture that is part of the school’s Patterson Lecture Series. The 7:45 a.m. event in the Parks Gymnasium is open to the public.
MCI spokeswoman Jennifer Voter Beane said the school intends to have the banner framed and displayed “in a prominent place” on the MCI campus in perpetuity.
Bowen, who was born and raised in Cohasset, Mass., spent much of his naval career aboard conventional and nuclear-powered submarines. In 2000, he became the executive officer of the first new Virginia-class submarine and later that year was chosen as the first submarine officer to be selected by NASA as a mission specialist. Since 2002, Bowen has participated in two space flights and has spent more than 27 total days in space. Some 34 hours of that time was spent in space walks, according to Bowen’s biography on NASA’s website.
On May 14, Bowen was part of a shuttle crew that departed from Kennedy Space Center in Florida to deliver equipment to the International Space Station. Bowen performed three spacewalks during the mission — while the MCI flag was stowed nearby — to install an antenna and replace batteries on the space station. The 12-day mission logged 186 orbits around Earth, traveling almost 4.9 million miles before returning on May 26.
Bowen’s lecture on Friday will focus on health and wellness, which is MCI’s theme for the 2010-11 school year. The MCI Patterson Lecture Series brings dignitaries from Maine and beyond to speak to the school’s student body. Recent speakers have included former Gov. Angus King, CMP President and CEO Sara Burns, University of Maine professor Habib Dagher, U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, Health and Human Services Commissioner Brenda Harvey and Unity College President Mitchell Thomashow.
MCI Head of School Christopher Hopkins said in a statement that the lecture series tries to feature issues that are relevant to students both at school and in their private lives.
“We are trying to expose students at MCI to a wide variety of people, experiences and perspectives,” said Hopkins. “A significant goal of the Patterson Lecture Series is to teach students how to take something away from every speaker they hear, whether these presenters are on the national political stage, from the military or business arenas, or are speaking from a personal or professional perspective.”