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Astronaut on a mission to inspire children in Chandler to use their imagination

John Shoffner of Axiom Space 1.png
Posted at 5:25 PM, Mar 14, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-14 21:55:11-04

CHANDLER, AZ — Children at the Crayola Experience in Chandler got a chance to ask an astronaut some questions all while he continues his mission to inspire young minds to use their imagination.

Among the dozens of kids who showed up to hear from John Shoffner of Axiom Space, 4-year-old Freddy was excited to learn he’d share a room with someone who holds the job he one day aspires to have – an astronaut.

“They see aliens,” said Freddy, when asked what astronauts do.

The imagination used by Freddy is similar to that of John when he was in grade school.

He shared pictures of him as a little boy in a metal trash can pretending to be in a space capsule and another holding a canvas of a painting he did when he was 10 years old of Col. Ed White floating in space in the 1960s.

John Shoffner of Axiom Space

“As much as I aspired to (be an astronaut) at the time, for some reason I didn’t pursue it to completion,” said Shoffner.

As a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education advocate, John realizes the distractions to deter a childhood dream could seem as vast as space itself these days.

So, he’s on a mission to encourage young minds to use their imagination. Starting there, the possibilities are endless.

“When you encourage that, then you see what the real person is, and then we can teach to that,” he said.

Shoffner’s imagination led to a vast interest in space as a young boy.

That created a path for him to study all that was necessary to become a pilot, a race car driver, a STEM educator and eventually an astronaut.

Coming this spring, Shoffner will lift off with three others for 12 days to the International Space Station.

He’s slated to be the pilot for Axiom Space’s mission to, in part, educate remotely about life in space and lay the groundwork to establish the first-ever commercial space station.

While at Crayola Experience in Chandler, he urged future astronauts to use their imagination to think about what it would be like in space and share that through art or poetry in a contest.

Some will be selected and shared from the International Space Station.

“If they ask one more question and develop one more ounce of curiosity, then they can start to open that door,” said Shoffner.

Who knows where that door will lead to next.