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NASA Hometown Heroes 2008: Col. Bob Cabana Visits the Minneapolis Twins
Bob Cabana interviewCol. Bob Cabana talks with Tom Butler of KMSP-TV in Minneapolis. Photo credit: NASA
Sporting a flight jacket covered with enough mission patches to make almost any astronaut jealous, Col. Bob Cabana launched out of his childhood Minneapolis home at 5 a.m. and headed for the first of several early morning media interviews.

Cabana’s Aug. 11 visit to his hometown of Minneapolis was the fourth stop on NASA’s Hometown Heroes 2008 campaign. Throughout the summer, astronauts have been traveling back to their hometowns and home regions to throw out the first pitch at Major League Baseball games as part of NASA’s celebration of the International Space Station’s 10th year in orbit. In December 1998, Cabana served as shuttle commander for the first station assembly mission. During that mission, the first U.S. segment of the station, the Unity node, was mated with Zarya, the first Russian segment that was launched a month earlier. “It was great being on the first assembly mission,” Cabana shared with KMSP-TV morning news anchor Tom Butler. “We got to power up the space station and turn on the lights and go inside for the first time.”

Cabana has flown on four shuttle missions during his career with NASA. He was the pilot for STS-41 and STS-53 and the commander for STS-65 and STS-88. Earlier this year he had the distinctive honor of being inducted into the Astronaut Hall of Fame. He currently serves as Director of the NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.

Cabana loves to talk about space and was asked a variety of space-related questions throughout his interviews. Questions that ranged from what it is like to fly the shuttle to what type of research is done on the station to what’s the future of NASA. By the end of the morning he had appeared on three television stations, one radio station and been interviewed by an online newspaper.

Bob CabanaBob Cabana throws out the honorary first pitch of the game at the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis. Photo credit: NASA
That evening, Cabana headed to the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis where the Minnesota Twins were hosting the New York Yankees. Prior to the game, fans had the opportunity to meet the former shuttle commander during an autograph session in the main concourse.

After throwing out the honorary first pitch of the game, this hometown hero presented the Twins with a photo of Minneapolis taken from the station. Cabana spent the top of the third inning chatting live on-air with the Fox Sports Net broadcast team. Then it was back to the main concourse where he spent the rest of the game signing autographs and taking photographs with enthusiastic space fans.

“It was a great time meeting him,” said Minnesota Twins event marketing director Heidi Sammon. “I think the fans enjoyed him being here and meeting him and we’re thankful that he visited with us.”

The next morning, Cabana started his day at the Minneapolis Central Library. He gave two presentations about the space program and answered questions from the audience. The first presentation was to elementary school students and the second to a group of adults. An autograph session and photo opportunity followed each presentation.

Bob Cabana signs autographsBob Cabana autographs photos for young space enthusiasts in Minneapolis. Photo credit: NASA
“I like that he was motivating the kids to set goals,” said parent Carol Rettmann. “And we walked away with more questions than answers and I think that’s good. So we’re going to go do more research ourselves.”

By lunchtime Cabana was on the road and heading to a Lockheed Martin research and design facility in nearby Eagan, Minn. He presented an overview of the current state of NASA’s space exploration program and answered questions from the audience. He ended his presentation by thanking the crowd for the support they provide NASA and reminding them they are all important members of America’s space exploration team.

A tour of an onsite aeronautics test lab followed by a short autograph session wrapped up Cabana’s afternoon.

“I think it’s been terrific,” said Frank Parisi, the director of strategic partnerships for the city of Minneapolis. “We forget that we have some talented people like Cabana who have done remarkable things in their lives. And for a large measure of our population I think there was great joy last night. He threw out the first pitch at the Twins game and they beat the Yankees four to nothing! So who could ask for anything more than that?”
Victor Scott
Johnson Space Center, Houston