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Astronaut beams into Senate

INDIANAPOLIS – Senators and staff received a unique treat Thursday when NASA Commander Kevin Ford beamed into the Indiana Senate for a broadcast visit from the International Space Station.

Wearing a blue sweatshirt adorned with the state flag emblem, the native Hoosier talked about the importance of space exploration, his time going to school in Indiana and his 105-day stint on the station.

Ford is the brother of former Sen. David Ford, R-Hartford City, who died in 2008 after a battle with cancer.

There was an eight-second delay between outer space and the Indiana Senate as Senate President Pro Tem David Long asked Ford questions and those in the chamber sat rapt in their seats.

"My heart is there," Ford said of Indiana. He hasn't lived in the state since he graduated from the University of Notre Dame, after which he spent time in the U.S. Air Force as a pilot and now more than a decade at NASA.

Ford has about 40 days left on his expedition, and talked about working alongside Japanese and Russian astronauts on the station.

He said he didn't know he wanted to be an astronaut in high school, and encouraged students to find what they love the most and "put their heart into" it. He also stressed that they should worry more about learning than grades.

Ford demonstrated several types of food he eats onboard, including orange-colored dried eggs that must be re-hydrated. And then he took a sip of juice, first allowing the liquid glob to hang in the air before he gobbled it up.

"The first thing I'm looking forward to doing (when I get back) is taking a shower," he told a student from Montpelier. He hasn't showered since he arrived at the space station.

And he generally said he will need relaxation and rehabilitation time to get his body readjusted to Earth.

Ford stressed it's important for space exploration to continue, and he hopes the U.S. will use its assets and skills to lead the effort.

"It's almost…our obligation to do it," he said.

Long then told Ford the Senate was passing a resolution to honor his tremendous life so far.

Clayton Ford, father of David and Kevin, attended the event and smiled broadly, showing his pride for both his two sons.

"They both worked hard and did what they wanted in life," he said.

Clayton Ford said he speaks regularly with Kevin Ford thanks to a computer NASA sent.

nkelly@jg.net

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