Odessa teacher hopes for spot in space

Ruth Campbell, Odessa American, Texas
·4 min read

Apr. 13—George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa social studies teacher Gary Dutchover has applied to take a space flight.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has invited eight people to join him for a trip around the moon on Elon Musk's SpaceX flight, a BBC news report said.

Called Dear Moon, the mission will take place in 2023 and it will be free for those selected. The trip will be six days — three there and three back.

Dutchover said he has always been interested in space and recalls watching the moon landing on TV decades ago.

"I just was amazed at the whole idea. ... I know now as an adult that ultimately humans will have to leave this planet. We won't have a choice ...," Dutchover said.

At first, Maezawa wanted only artists, Dutchover said.

"His definition of what an artist is became a bit ... ambiguous. ... But he realized that when people asked him, what does an artist mean. And then he realized that wait a minute, it's not exactly cut and dry. I want to show you that teaching is an art and I am an artist. I take my job seriously. The moment I saw this, I knew that I was going to apply. I applied within less than 24 hours after seeing the announcement. I jumped on it as fast as I could," Dutchover said.

The latest test flight went fine until it was time to land.

"... As it was setting down, it blew up. ...," but he noted that you can learn a lot from your mistakes.

"I would rather them make the mistakes now ... clean them up, fix it up."

When he applied, Dutchover said, they wanted basic information such as who are you, where are you from, your age, your gender. He also was asked for photos.

He added that the astronauts will undergo training. However, they are not pilots and won't be flying the rocket.

He hopes that those that make the flight provide insight into how fragile the Earth is.

"I have been studying the planet for quite some time. I'm not a geologist or a biologist, but I am very interested in our planet and I'd like for it to remain healthy for as long as possible. That's all we have," Dutchover said.

He has made it through the second step of the application process and should know soon whether he has been chosen.

Dutchover stressed that he's not into self promotion and doesn't participate in social media, but he does need a boost.

"I would ask that anyone reading the story would realize that what I would like to do would be to promote Odessa, to promote Texas to promote the United States; to be an ambassador for humankind; and afterwards, try to bring some awareness to how we should be treating our Earth. As I said, this is all we have."

He added that there are many NTO students and fellow Odessans on social media, so he's hoping they will support his efforts. His crew candidate number is US-0052439-00432176.

More than a million people from all over the world have applied, he said.

"I'm not married. My children are grown. My grandkids will still have their parents. I'm not in great debt. I have an extremely curious mind and I'm going to want to do this," Dutchover said.

A native Odessan, Dutchover said he has worked for Ector County ISD for over 20 years. He majored in history and minored in political science at University of Texas Permian Basin. He added that he would love to go on for a master's degree.

"I used to be the maintenance man at this building," Dutchover said. "I've been in this building for over 20 years. ... I went to school at night. I did my student teaching here and I started teaching."

Dutchover said he knows his application is a long shot, but he wants to take the chance.

Superintendent Scott Muri was thrilled with Dutchover's effort.

"When we partnered with SpaceX to provide broadband internet for our community, we never imagined one of our teachers might fly to the moon in a SpaceX rocket!" Muri said in an email. "We expect our teachers to inspire kids to dream big, and Mr. Dutchover has taken 'dream big' to the next level. Out of this world, actually. How exciting would it be if he was chosen for this mission and we could watch the rocket from our telescope platform at Odessa High School?"