Hattiesburg instructor works toward becoming astronaut - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Hattiesburg science instructor works toward becoming a NASA astronaut

Dr. Noel Mann lectures to a class Monday morning. Dr. Noel Mann lectures to a class Monday morning.

One local science teacher has an extraordinary story to tell. While his 25 years in the U.S. Army and many years teaching at Mississippi educational institutions may seem fascinating enough, how about the opportunity to become a NASA astronaut?

Dr. Noel Mann at Presbyterian Christian School is no ordinary science teacher. Dr. Mann, who has taught at several institutions of higher learning in Mississippi, including USM, also served as a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army for 25 years during Operation Desert Storm and the Vietnam War. At the age of 62, he is now looking to add one more item to his already impressive resume, becoming a NASA astronaut.

"I always wanted to go into space. When I left high school in 1964, my high school teacher told me I would probably be the first person on Mars. I don't know what prompted that conversation, but she said that," said Dr. Mann.

Becoming a NASA astronaut is a 16 step process. Dr. Mann received notice over the weekend that he has made it to step 11, meaning only 5 more steps stand between him and his lifelong goal. While the first few steps have generally consisted of paperwork and background screenings, he says the grunt of the work still lies ahead.

"You have to take a physical, a flight physical. You have to be able to swim 75 meters. You have to be able to swim 50 meters in a flight suit with tennis shoes on. You have to tread water for 10 minutes with a flight suit on. So, there are some extraneous physical requirements that are coming up," said Dr. Mann.

This is the first class of NASA astronauts since 2009 and the numbers are staggering, with several thousand applicants. The next step in the selection process involves cutting this number down to a mere 150 people. No matter the result, he says he will still be proud to have at least tried.

"Fulfilling a live long dream of at least trying to become an astronaut. My dad as we were growing up, his favorite saying when ever we tried to do something, he said just remember how many people have done it before you, if they can do it, you can do it. So, that's sort of the philosophy that all my brothers and sisters have carried all the way through life," said Dr. Mann.

Dr. Mann expects to know if he made the cut by March of this year, with hopes of continuing down the path of becoming a NASA astronaut. If Dr. Mann is eventually selected to become an astronaut, he still plans to return to PCS for one more year before training begins in June of 2013.

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