NASA Astronaut stops by Marshall Space Flight Center

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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. --  A NASA astronaut, back from a tour in space visited Redstone Arsenal Thursday to speak with students in town from around the country, for the student launch competition. The kids are challenged with designing and building their rockets during the school year before bringing them to Marshall for final inspections and launches.

A mission to space has an extremely important purpose, probably more important than most of us can even understand.

"To conduct science and research, to extend our presence in the solar system and to improve life back here on earth," said NASA Astronaut Kjell Lindgren.

Lindgren spoke with some of the brightest students from around the country as part of the student launch competition, he wanted to showcase the out-of-this-world fun to be had in space. He talked about the day-to-day life during his five months on the International Space Station, including hair washing, cutting and exercising galaxies away from home.

Through the laughs and story-telling, Lindgren knows his message has a much bigger purpose.

"As I look out at the audience, I see the future of our space program and the future of exploration. These young minds are the ones that are going to build the vehicle, the capsule and the architecture that takes us to Mars and there may be one or two people in the audience that take those first steps on Mars," said Lindgren.

Lindgren speaks with students because he knows firsthand the dream of becoming an astronaut can seem far-fetched, but he too was once just a kid with a dream.

"There is a part of me that is just reveling in this dream come true," said Lindgren.

Lindgren says the future of space exploration has never looked brighter and he can't wait to see what these kids will accomplish.