Astronaut tells Pioneer High School students to reach beyond their grasp

By Andrew Cluley Communications Specialist

Ann Arbor Pioneer High School went out of this world to celebrate the Fourth Annual Academic Awards Assembly. Retired astronaut Jack Lousma gave the keynote address and urged Pioneer students to strive for greatness in whatever they do. “I want to encourage you to reach beyond your grasp. We can all do more than we think we can, especially if we’re pushed, but reach beyond your grasp.”

Lousma was the pilot for the Skylab 3 mission and the spacecraft commander for the third Space Shuttle flight to space. He also served as a member of the astronaut support crew for several Apollo Missions. When Apollo 13 astronauts famously said, “Houston, we have a problem,” it was Lousma who they were addressing, and he helped to bring them home alive safely.

The 1954 graduate of Ann Arbor High School told students his career as an astronaut was the result of putting himself in the right place for success. “If you want to do something, prepare yourself for it. Get ready for it, because you never know when the opportunity is going to come your way, and if you’re not ready somebody else will get the job,” Lousma said. “So do all you can to prepare yourself in your particular area of interest and dedicate yourself to it.”

Jack Lousma and members of Pioneer High Schools student council's alumni committee.
Jack Lousma and members of Pioneer High Schools student council’s alumni committee.

Lousma outlined his career from serving as a paperboy, to selling shoes, to serving as a pilot, and then becoming an astronaut. He said something he has in common with today’s students led him to space. “People often ask why I wanted to do this sort of thing and it’s just I’m a Pioneer, like you are!”

He encouraged students to find a career that they love, and not go into it just for money. “We were treated like rock stars, but we make military pay. It’s all we ever got, no more, no less, but I would’ve done it for nothing,” Lousma said. “I never worked a day in my life. Every day was a great day.”

Lousma credited his success to several guiding principles, including a special kind of character. “Willing to do things but not take a lot of credit for them. You’re not trying to put marks on your resume, you’re trying to do something that is worthwhile because it comes from your heart.”

Other important lessons Lousma shared was the need to take calculated risks, rather than taking chances, and to not be afraid of making a mistake, but to use them as learning opportunities. Of course working hard was another trait Lousma credited for his success. “I found there was always someone who was better than me, but we have to do our individual best. And I found also that the only way I could keep up with these really smart folks was to work harder.”

Pioneer teacher Steve Armstrong and astronaut Jack Lousma discuss the Apollo 13 mission and Lousma’s role in bringing the astronauts home safely.

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