The Yonder

Wednesday to Sunday, I was in Phoenix for my fraternity’s, Sigma Phi Epsilon, national convention (known as Conclave). Taking place every two years, it celebrates chapters and brothers who have done outstanding things. 

One of these brothers is NASA Astronaut Andrew Feustel, PhD (Indiana Alpha).

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As we all know, NASA has shut down its Space Shuttle Program. Fortunately, for Feustel, he was a member of NASA’s penultimate mission into space. As a part of STS-134, he and five others flew to and completed construction of the ISS.

Brother Andrew Feustel received the Sigma Phi Epsilon Citation for outstanding achievement in his career. He spoke to us at Conclave, showing us never-before-seen images of his time in space and also bestowed, to the fraternity, a SigEp flag that he brought with him into space. It’s truly amazing to see what this man has accomplished in his life.

As he showed us pictures and video of his time on the space shuttle Endeavour, I started to get chills. Here, in front of us, was a man who is showing us visuals of our beautiful planet. I never really contemplated our place in the vast universe but, after seeing those pictures, it really took my breath away. Granted, I always knew that we were so small in comparison to the grand scheme of things, but Brother Feustel’s speech struck something in me. 

Outer space is a beautiful thing, and our planet is a majestic sphere of life and creation. Despite our conflicts, countries have been able to collaborate and create the International Space Station, furthering the world’s knowledge of what lies beyond our atmosphere which, as displayed in his pictures, is so very thin.

I guess what I’m trying to reach for is the idea that, despite our littleness in the universe, we are so big at the same time. I don’t mean to stroke our egos but people, like Andrew Feustel, are trying to figure out what else comes with the territory. The fact that this small community of men and women who go into space to better the human race and to discover what lies ahead in our future is truly awe-inspiring. To them, I am impressed and thankful, but to Andrew Feustel, I can proudly say that he is a Brother of universal proportions.


ISS028-E-005268 (25 May 2011) – With various components of the International Space Station in the view, NASA astronaut Andrew Feustel is pictured during the STS-134 mission’s third space walk (and Feustel’s third, as well). Astronauts Feustel and Michael Fincke (out of frame), both mission specialists, coordinated their shared activity with NASA astronaut Greg Chamitoff (out of frame), who stayed in communication with the pair and with Mission Control Center in Houston from the shirt sleeve environment inside the ISS.

“Hey, whatcha doin?”

“Space stuff.”

The STS-134 crew stands together on Launch Pad 39A in front of the towering external fuel tank and solid rocket boosters of space shuttle Endeavour, one day before its final flight, the STS-134 mission, to the International Space Station. From left are Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Andrew Feustel; Pilot Greg H. Johnson, Commander Mark Kelly, European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori and Mission Specialist Greg Chamitoff.

SM4: Astronaut Andrew Feustel and WFC3

But for the absence of gravity, astronaut Andrew Feustel, perched on the end of the remote manipulator system arm, would be a bit top heavy as he helps to install the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) during a May 14 spacewalk to perform work on the Hubble Space Telescope. Out of frame is veteran astronaut John Grunsfeld, his spacewalking crewmate. The pair kicked off five back to back days of extravehicular activity for the STS-125 crew. Feustel and Grunsfeld will participate in two of the remaining four spacewalks.

Credit: NASA