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Celebrity Scientist #2: Tom Hanks

The Secret Life of Scientists and EngineersThe Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers

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Tom Hanks did not set out to become one of the world’s most beloved movie stars. His original goal was to become an astronaut.

Hanks had to settle on playing one in the 1995 film “Apollo 13.” But the film reinvigorated his love of space, and he went on to produce the HBO 12-part miniseries “From The Earth to the Moon” about NASA’s moon landings, and he stands on the board of the National Space Society, a nonprofit educational space advocacy organization.

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Tom Hanks as astronaut Jim Lovell

In the early 1990’s, when NASA’s budget was threatened, Hanks issued this passionate appeal to congress on the organization’s behalf, lobbying them to continue funding the space program.
Hanks wrote:

“It is the best part of us all—the understanding that given time and money, we can figure out just about anything. The American work ethic is most perfectly displayed in the plans and accomplishments of NASA and its contributing industries. It is, in fact, inspiring to see that we can, and do, put men and women into the lifeless vacuum and glorious free fall of outer space.”

Well. Hanks took that role in “Apollo 13” really, really seriously. Do they give out Oscars for leading actor in an off-screen role inspired by a film? Maybe the Golden Globes…