NASA still hiring heroes for Astronaut Corps, just not as many as before

McNair Middle science teacher Guytri Still tells her students to aim high, study hard and one day they can be an astronaut like their school's namesake and the "heroes" they see rocket into space just miles from their Rockledge campus.

But after Atlantis' final launch scheduled for Friday, Still is afraid it will become much more complicated to follow in the footsteps of Challenger astronaut Ronald McNair since Americans will be relying, at least for the foreseeable future, on the Russian space program for trips to orbit.

"We tell kids, 'When you grow up you can be an astronaut,' " Still said. "What do we tell them now?"

The message from Peggy Whitson, head of the Astronaut Corps: Keep telling them that. There will still be a need for daring, smart space professionals.

"The biggest misconception with the shuttle program coming to an end: We're not going to be flying astronauts," Whitson said. "We are. I still want young people to dream to be astronauts. There will be jobs out there."

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