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Astronaut turned Arizona senator tours Arizona History Museum's space exhibit

Sen. Mark Kelly’s items are among those displayed
Posted at 7:38 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 22:45:53-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Arizona’s been a leader in space exploration for more than a hundred years. Wednesday, a space exhibit at a Tucson museum had a visit from an Arizona Senator who has actually been in space.

Arizona’s history spans from the dusty days of the Old West to the still very new frontier of outer space and you can see the full span at the Arizona History Museum’s exhibit, “Ready To Launch: Arizona’s Place In Space".

Before he became a U.S. Senator for Arizona, Mark Kelly made four trips to orbit on the space shuttle. His blue flight suit is on display, along with log books from two of his flights---tucked inside one of them is a letter from his wife Gabrielle Giffords.

Seeing the logs in a display case, Kelly said: “They (museum curators) didn’t read it, but it’s in the back of my notebook.”

Long before people flew in space, Arizona’s clear skies made it a world center to explore space by telescope. The exhibit has fuzzy photos of a discovery made in Flagstaff in 1930.

Viewing the photos, Kelly asked a museum guide: “Is this...the first image of Pluto? Yeah.”

Arizona scientists not only mapped the moon for Apollo astronauts, Arizona’s landscape became where astronauts prepared to actually walk on the moon.

Kelly is more impressed with another astronaut’s history on display.

“Well Buzz Aldrin-- one of his training suits from Apollo 11 is a pretty big deal when I walk in and I see that we have that here in Tucson, at least you know just temporarily is something pretty neat to see.”

And Kelly says the impact of space exploration and space flight lands in Arizona’s economy.

“Especially with regards to our universities; University of Arizona, ASU, Northern Arizona University -- they all have connections and programs, you know, OSIRIS REx being one of them managed out of the University of Arizona. Mars, the Phoenix Mars lander, as another the Mission Control Center was here in Tucson at the U of A. That means, federal money coming into the state and jobs.”

But Kelly says those are all benefits from the main mission Arizona has advanced--learning more about the universe.