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Winston Scott portrait

Orbiting a Speck of Dust

Nov 13, 2018 | 8 min. read

Winston Scott, a First Command client who also happens to be an astronaut, passes on his enthusiasm for life in space and here on earth.

“You can’t stop human nature; human beings were meant to explore. That’s why people are so inspired by space travel. And why most kids grow up wanting to be astronauts!”

Like many people who came of age during the dawn of human space exploration, Winston Scott spent his childhood dreaming of space travel. But growing up in segregated Florida, Scott never seriously considering the possibility that he’d have the chance to go himself. He instead chose early on to follow his passion for playing and composing music – a path he ultimately pursued at Florida State University. But when he began filling his elective requirements with science and engineering classes, something clicked: He should pursue a career as a pilot. After graduation, Scott decided to apply to the United States Navy Aviation program. For the next 20 years, he worked his way up the ranks of the Navy, and by the early 90’s he decided to apply for the ultimate mission – manning a NASA space flight. 

In 1992, Scott received a call telling him to report to the Johnson Space Center. And at that moment, he knew his life would never be the same. Four years later, Scott climbed aboard the Endeavor to begin his first space journey. 

“When you watch a liftoff on TV, it looks like it happens very slowly. But in reality, the rocket jumps off the pad,” Scott explained. “And eight-and-a-half minutes later, you’re in orbit. There are really no words to describe the feeling; it’s such a fun ride.”

Nine days after liftoff, Scott reentered the earth’s atmosphere, where he stayed for nearly two years. Then, in November 1997, he returned to space one final time aboard the Columbia. During his two missions, he spent 24 days in space, performing three spacewalks. But despite the extraordinary things he was able to experience, his favorite thing to do was something that many here on earth take for granted: looking out the window. 

“From that view, you realize just how small the earth is.” He exclaimed. “It’s so bright and colorful. And it looks so peaceful!”

Scott’s time in space highlighted for him just how grateful he was for the earth and its atmosphere. He does admit that weightlessness is fun. That is, until he wanted to do something normal, like go to the bathroom – “I don’t even need to tell you what that’s like in space!” But after a couple of days in zero gravity, there were two things Scott missed most: a hot shower and food that stays put when he set it on the table. 

Scott retired from NASA in 1999, but as he puts it, “once you’re a part of NASA, you never really leave.” Today, he still spends much of his time at the space center and receives more speaking requests than he’d ever be able to accept. It seems that his assumption from 1992 was right: being an astronaut changed his life. But the notoriety that he will likely experience for the rest of his life isn’t the only way that spending time in space impacted Scott. It also gave him a lasting appreciation for life here on earth. 

“From space, you can see the boundaries of earth, and you realize how small it actually is,” he said. “In the grand scheme of things, we’re living on an insignificant speck of dust. But it’s important to us because its home.” 

It’s been 21 years since Scott’s final journey to space. But the enthusiasm with which he talks about his time in orbit hasn’t seemed to wane. In fact, the experience still helps him combat the regular frustrations of daily life, like cars cutting him off on the highway: “I walked in space! I’m not going to let some crazy driver steal my joy!” Whenever he is able, Scott also tries to impart this awe and appreciation of life to others. Especially when he talks to students – his favorite type of speaking engagement – Scott tries to inspire students to follow their passions and not lose the innocent excitement about life that many students have already. 

“Hopefully, I can instill some positivity into their life. I want to help them go higher.”

Winston Scott has been a client of First Command Financial Services for nearly 40 years.

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