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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Gray Matter: Local NASA link exciting, informative

Thursday, November 2, 2006

      Last time I promised to tell you more about Brian Peavey, our present link with the National Aeronautic and Space Agency, so here goes. 

On his mother's side, there is a long history of pilots and navigation, so it might be said that flying is in his blood.  His father, Dennis Peavey, tells me that as a youngster he would often lie out on their lawn staring up at the sky, pointing out airplanes that the rest of the family couldn't even see.  He took flying as an elective science class during his senior year in high school in Westport, CT.  While living there, his father commuted each day to midtown Manhattan where he was a CPA and partner with Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the international accounting and consulting firm.

            But back to Brian -- his instructor was a retired navy airman and he and Brian hit it off well.  Perhaps it was because the teacher was tough and his pupil liked to be challenged.  For example, the final exam for the course was the FAA ground school test.  Brian was the only one in the class to even sit for it, and he passed it "with flying colors." (Sorry, I just couldn't resist that one.) Meanwhile, his parents had given him flying lessons -- his early graduation gift.  According to his dad, they spent many a  Sunday afternoon flying up and down the Hudson, over West Point and the Hampton mansions on Long Island.

            His instructor, the retired navy man, convinced young Peavey to apply for admission to the Naval Academy, which he did.  He won an appointment from, then Senator, Lowell Weicker, but to his deep disappointment, he was denied admission because he wore glasses.

            Brian, who sounds like a "never say never" kind of guy, soon picked himself up and started checking out aerospace-related college programs.  Almost by accident he stumbled onto Embry Riddle University in Prescott, AZ, which is known as the "Harvard of the Skies".  They offer only two degrees, Aerospace Science (pilots) and Aeronautical Engineering (rocket scientists.)  He started out in the former, hoping to become a commercial pilot, but soon transferred to the latter.  Another clever comment came when his dad said that his favorite T-shirt was one Brian used to wear which said "I really am a rocket scientist."

            The young man was hired by NASA immediately upon graduation, and assigned to their EVA unit.  That means Extra Vehicular Activities, or to us laymen, space walking.  He trains astronauts in the use of space suits -- spending time in the world's largest swimming pool that emulates weightlessness.  U.S. astronauts must be trained to use Russian suits and vice versa, so he also spends a lot of time at Star City (the Johnson Space Center of Russia.)  He is fluent in Russian and serves as an interpreter for our astronauts.

             Dennis proudly tells me that he has twin Russian grandsons, Max and Daniel,  now 7 years old.  They are able to spend 2-3 months each summer in Houston with their father, Brian, his present wife, Courtney, and their wee half-brother, Aiden, who was born this past July.

            This concludes my two-part account of western Cherokee County's strong connections with the prestigious NASA program.  I hope you have found it as fascinating as I have.