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Retiree trained as astronaut, Elderhostel style

Midge Boardman, People

GLENDALE -- Bob De Wees might be retired, but his appetite for

adventure would put a younger man to shame.

When the longtime Glendale resident spotted the Elderhostel Astronaut


Training Program on his e-mail, “I jumped on it immediately,” he said


No longer would he have to envy kids at space camp. He could attend

the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, one of the world’s


foremost space museums and one of the Smithsonian Institute’s first


The little museum that could is now a big one, De Wees said, with a

U.S. space artifact collection (including the actual Apollo 13 command

module Odyssey) second only to the National Air and Space Museum and the

largest collection of Russian space artifacts in the Western world.

Classes and lectures filled the first few days in preparation for

flying a mission in a space shuttle simulator. Thirty-three participants


are divided into five-person crews. De Wees commanded his flight.

“There were lots of checklists -- a book of check lists. And I talked

to the control center,” he said, referring to Cosmosphere.

Realistic, motion-based screens inside the simulated capsule showed

rock formations and, at the end of an hour, a safe landing at the Kennedy

Space Center.

“It felt like we were really practicing, getting the feel for what

went on there,” he said.


Students built and launched their own rockets and saw eight different

satellites: American, Russian and the international station.

“The best sighting I ever had,” De Wees said.

Helen Unruh, Cosmosphere director of membership and special projects,

remembered De Wees.

“He wanted to learn as much as possible, taking notes and asking

questions,” she said.

She said the program, open to Elderhostel since 1995, has drawn people

from around the United States, Canada and Hawaii. Physical condition

doesn’t matter, she said, but students should have a sense of adventure

and the desire to try something different, and to find creative ways to

do fun things, she added.

Anyone wanting more information can call her at (800) 397-0330 ext.

319 or visit the Web site

The Elderhostel students were an inspiration, she said.

“We all agreed that when we get older, we want to be like them,” she



HOME: Moved to Glendale from Eagle Rock 35 years ago.

BEFORE RETIREMENT: Technical AT&T; marketing consultant.

CHILDREN: Two sons: Mike attended Glendale College years ago, now

finishing up at Cal State Los Angeles in business administration; Jim

earned a degree in English from San Diego State three years ago, travels

around the world, now in Japan. Both men attended Hoover High School.

HOBBIES: Independent travel, photography, Red Cross Disaster Services


FUTURE PLANS: Return to Europe, Asia, Africa; explore Antarctica;

spend a long time in Australia and New Zealand.