HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KSNW) — The Cosmosphere in Hutchinson has been inspiring children and adults alike for 60 years. The world-class space museum recently added a new way to reach students across the state, and on Friday, they had an out-of-this-world guest speaker.

Astronaut Dan Tani (Courtesy: NASA)

LaunchNext’s LaunchLearning program delivers the excitement of space exploration to classrooms throughout Kansas. It engages students with hands-on activities and experiments, engaging videos and livestreaming, and sometimes they learn about living in space from real-life astronauts.

Dan Tani has accomplished some many extraordinary things, like walking among the stars.

“There’s something magic about space. I’m so happy that it’s part of my life because you don’t have to really convince people that hard to talk about space and imagine what it’s like to be in space,” says the retired astronaut.

During his visit to Hutchinson, Tani recorded over a dozen videos for the Cosmosphere’s online LaunchLearning program.

Astronaut Dan Tani (Courtesy: NASA)

Tani flew on three space shuttle missions. He also spent 120 days on the International Space Station, serving as a flight engineer and logging over 34 hours during six spacewalks.

“I left NASA about 10 years ago, and I’ve done a few things since then, including teaching high school for a while. Now I work in industry,” said Tani. “I work for a space contractor, and we’re building space station parts and planning to figure out how to put people on the surface of the moon.”

Tani’s new mission is to inspire the next generation of explorers, like students from Hutchinson, Wichita, Salina, and Towanda, who attended Tani’s presentation Friday morning.

Astronaut Dan Tani (Courtesy: NASA)

“I think it’s really important, and I think we astronauts feel that we got the privilege of going into space. And so, I think most of us believe it’s our job. It’s our responsibility to bring that experience back to tell people what it’s like,” said Tani. “I’m happy to talk about what life is like in low earth orbit or in space because these are kids that I hope are going to go to space in their lives either as tourists. Maybe it’s astronauts. Maybe it’s explorers to the moon. And so, I’m happy to talk about that whole experience.”

Tani has big expectations for America’s youth.

“We need smarter and smarter people. We need explorers. We need to develop that kind of mindset. Because we astronauts now, we want a humanity to go to the moon and to Mars. So, it’s our job to make sure that the next generation is prepared to do that.”

Tani believes this is an exciting time for space exploration.

Astronaut Dan Tani (second from the right) among other NASA astronauts (Courtesy: NASA)

“We are on the cusp of building the rockets that are going to take the next people back to the moon, and we are designing the missions that are going to go further to Mars, to an asteroid. I think we are at a real turning point in space where it’s accessible to almost everybody because these satellites are being made by high school students and are flying in space. That’s amazing. But we’re also building the big rockets to go to the moon and to Mars,” said Tani.

The retired astronaut was scheduled to help students launch an experimental balloon Friday morning, but those plans were scratched due to bad weather.

Tani’s videos will be available in the LaunchNext section of the Cosmosphere’s website.