ASHLAND, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska's only astronaut, Clayton Anderson is stepping into a new role — leading Ashland's Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum as President and CEO.
His journey started as a boy growing up in Ashland where a spark was lit inside.
"I was able to fire my thrill and passion by watching the Apollo 8 astronauts around the moon back in 1968," Anderson said.
After getting a master's degree in aerospace engineering at Iowa State University, he embarked on a 30-year career at NASA: 15 years as an engineer and 15 as an astronaut.
"We were doing cutting-edge work, 'cause the Space Station didn't even exist back then, so all the things I got to do as a young engineer would culminate in me living and working on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station (ISS) at the same time," Anderson said.
He took his first mission in 2007, spending five months aboard the ISS. In 2010, he would return for a 15-day journey.
"We're sailing through the universe together and we also look from space and see how fragile the planet is in the atmosphere, it gives you a better recognition of, we need to take care of our vehicle," Anderson said.
After retiring from NASA in 2013, Anderson is returning to Ashland as the Strategic Air Command and Aerospace Museum President and CEO. He'll be closer to family and closer to home and he's working on a vision plan for the museum: increasing visitors and popularity.
"Out here being in Ashland, not far — but located away from Omaha and Lincoln — the challenge is always to get, 'Hey, stop by and see the museum.' Once people do, they can't believe what's here," Anderson said.
It's a full-circle journey for a man who first dared to dream.
"I'm a small-town kid from Nebraska. I worked on farms when I was little and there are many of those kids in the Midwest. They should understand very clearly, with hard work and perseverance they can do great things," Anderson said.
Anderson says his goal is to roll out his "vision plan" for the museum in the next year.