Astronaut, U.S. Navy test pilot, and UMass Dartmouth alumnus Captain Scott Tingle ’87 received a hero’s welcome when he returned to his alma mater last week after spending nearly six months on board the International Space Station (ISS).
Speaking to an audience of nearly 800 members of the UMass Dartmouth community and students from area middle and high schools, Tingle’s message was to work hard, dream big, and be grateful for those who helped you along the way.
His mission was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to become an astronaut, a dream that was planted as a young boy in Randolph, MA, long before his arrival on campus from Blue Hills Regional Technical High School in Canton.
Inspired by Neil Armstrong’s 1969 walk on the moon, Tingle’s hard work, perseverance, and belief in himself paid off as he graduated magna cum laude, earned a master’s degree from Purdue University, joined the Navy as a test pilot, and was named to NASA’s 20th astronaut class. He was thrilled to be chosen as a flight engineer for Expedition 54/55 to the ISS.
Audience fascinated by Tingle’s journey to space
In his introduction, Chancellor Robert Johnson said, "Captain Tingle has been around the world and outside of it, but he has come here today to show our current students and the future Corsairs in the audience what you can accomplish with a degree from UMass Dartmouth."
Taking the stage to a standing ovation, Tingle said, "It’s great to be with my UMassD family. When I flew in space, I flew with UMassD in my heart."
Tingle is not only grateful to the university for the education and support he received, but to all those who helped him reach his dream; the U.S. Navy, which helped to pay for his education; his parents and family; and the crews at NASA.
Receiving a special recognition from Tingle was his former professor, Ron DiPippo, retired chancellor professor of mechanical engineering and former associate dean. The two have remained close friends, and even emailed each other while Tingle was in space.
DiPippo said his former student "had the practical experience and the smarts to become an engineer. He was not deterred by anything; he has a wonderful attitude toward life. The pride that I feel is immensely deep. I give him all the credit in the world for what he accomplished."
Engineering education was a strong foundation for becoming an astronaut
While he really liked aerospace engineering, Tingle chose to major in mechanical engineering to gain the fundamental knowledge that would prove so critical to his future.
Tingle joined the Navy to help pay for his education and gain the flying experience he needed to become an astronaut.
He earned a master of science degree in engineering at Purdue University with a specialty in fluid mechanics and propulsion followed by three years with Aerospace Corporation in California in their Propulsion Department. Tingle would fly during his lunch break. When his tie hit him in the face as he was flying upside down one day, Tingle said he knew it was time to return to flying full-time.
He served as a Navy test pilot aboard the USS Nimitz and the USS Carl Vinson, one of the first responders to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. In 2009, he was selected for NASA’s astronaut class.
His classmate John Araujo ‘87, remembers getting the call from Tingle. "He said, 'John, I have some news. I’m in the astronaut program.' I’m very happy that his dream came true," said Araujo, who was joined by his wife Laura ‘87, also an engineering classmate.
Life on the International Space Station
On December 17, 2017, after three years of training and fitting into his spacesuit, which he would wear for the next ten hours, Tingle realized he was "just a few hours away from doing this thing he had been dreaming of."
As his wife and three children watched from Mission Control, Tingle blasted off from a launchpad in Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz spacecraft with an international crew. It took 8 ½ minutes to reach Earth’s lower orbit and finally, three days later, the ISS.
Tingle’s work in space included hundreds of experiments, including materials testing, capillary flow experiments, combustion research, a study of microgravity on bone marrow, and plant growth in space.
He ventured outside the spacecraft to work on parts of the robotic arm, "the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but one of the most rewarding things I could do."
To relax after working 14 hours/day, Tingle exercised to prevent bone loss, listened to music, and even jammed on his guitar with crewmates playing improvised instruments. They watched movies on a big screen strapped to the floor with bungee cords. His favorite meal was a peanut butter and jelly tortilla.
A question and answer session led by Dean Jean VanderGheynst of the College of Engineering allowed the audience to ask Tingle about his career path.
When asked what advice he would give UMass Dartmouth students, Tingle told them to work on something they are interested in with discipline and passion. "Set your goals, keep on it, and have faith in yourself."
As an astronaut, Tingle realized he was truly involved in something bigger than himself. "My only goal in my work was to do whatever I could to make this world a better place. It was a personal dream to have an impact on humanity. The world is a beautiful place. We’re on a spaceship right now, hurtling through the universe at ungodly speeds. We need to take care it. We need to take of each other."
In the afternoon, engineering students filled the CVPA Auditorium as Tingle talked about the more technical aspects of his experience, answering questions read by DiPippo and Associate Provost Ramprasad Balasubramanian.
To work in space, Tingle said, students will need a solid foundation in engineering fundamentals, a practical application of physics and engineering, the ability to work with teams of people and common sense based on real-life experiences. "Pursue what you love and because you’re great at it," he said.
"UMass Dartmouth had a profound impact on my life," Tingle said. "Thank you for a lifetime of inspiration. Don’t forget to dream big."