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An Astronaut’s Perspective: Why STEAM Matters

The following is a conversation between a father and daughter on the importance of a STEAM education. Mike Foreman, a former NASA astronaut, flew on space missions STS-123 and STS-129, logging more than 26 days in space and over 32 hours of extravehicular activity. His daughter, AmyJo Foreman, is this year’s EALS Director and has not logged any hours in space… yet.

Mike & AmyJo, Lake Tahoe 2014

AmyJo: Why is it important to include the arts in STEM education?

Mike: It’s so important for students to get a “well-rounded” education. When teachers expose their students to a wide breadth of subjects, they are opening their students’ minds to more diverse thinking. Diversity of thought ensures that, as future productive members of society, students can make well-informed, educated decisions.

What kind of arts education did you have growing up?

I attended a parochial school from first through eighth grades. Art was a required subject in every grade. At the time, I thought I was a pretty good crayon artist. My mom’s refrigerator does not currently have any of my artwork displayed so I probably wasn’t that good!

Mike rooting for the Naval Academy from space, STS-129

How has an arts education impacted your career?

In college I studied Aerospace Engineering. An Aircraft Design course was required for graduation. I learned that designers have to have a strong base in science and math but there’s also an element of art involved in designing a successful aircraft. I’m glad that I had some basic art training earlier.

Peggy Whitson (left), Rick Linnehan (top), Bob Behnken (upside down), & Mike Foreman (bottom)

Does NASA need artists?

NASA needs STEAM graduates. We always talk about the importance of diversity at NASA and sometimes people think we are only talking about ethnicity. We are actually talking about diversity in a number of ways but it boils down to getting diversity of opinion. People at NASA solve important problems every day–things that affect many different facets of our lives from safer airline travel to farming and, of course, spaceflight. We want diversity of thought in these problem solvers so that ALL possible solutions are brought forward and discussed. When that happens, we get the best possible solutions.

STS-129 takes off on space shuttle Atlantis

Are astronauts doing art in space?

Yes! Many astronauts are very talented in the arts. From Cady Coleman playing the flute and Dan Burbank playing the guitar in space to Doug Wheelock tweeting out very poetic thoughts to his many followers. I accidentally splattered some of my red strawberry drink on one of the clean white walls inside the space station–does that count?

What are you looking forward to most at EALS? I’m looking forward to meeting future leaders and watching my daughter lead the symposium!


Michael Foreman graduated with a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the US Naval Academy in 1979 and an MS in Aeronautical Engineering from the US Naval Postgraduate School in 1986. He was designated as a Naval Aviator in 1981. During his career he logged over 7,000 hours in more than 50 different aircraft.

A veteran of two space flights, Foreman flew on STS-123 in March 2008 and STS-129 in November 2009, and has logged more than 637 hours in space, including 32 hours and 19 minutes of EVA in five spacewalks. His first mission, STS-123 on the space shuttle Endeavour, delivered the first pressurized component of Japan’s Kibo Laboratory and the final element of the station’s Mobile Servicing System. The mission was accomplished in 250 orbits of the Earth, traveling more than 6.6 million miles in 15 days, 18 hours, 10 minutes and 54 second. His second mission, STS-129 on the space shuttle Atlantis was the 31st shuttle flight to the International Space Station. During the mission, the crew delivered two Express Logistics Carriers to the ISS, about 30,00 pounds of replacement parts for systems that provide power to the station, keep it from overheating and maintain proper orientation in space. The STS-129 mission was completed in 10 days, 19 hours, 16 minutes, and 13 seconds, traveling 4.5 million miles in 171 orbits.

As a retired Astronaut, Foreman works as the CFO and VP for Business Development at Venturi Outcomes, LLC, a consulting firm in Houston.

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