For the fourth date in this year’s Town Hall series, the Ringling College Library Association welcomed Captain Mark Kelly—astronaut, retired U.S. Navy captain, prostate cancer survivor and husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was the victim of an assassination attempt in January 2011.
Kelly’s life reads a like a well-written novel, and the packed Van Wezel audience soaked up every word Monday morning. He spoke self-deprecatingly about how he almost failed his first aircraft carrier landing: “Top Gun had just come out, and let me tell you—I was no Maverick. I think Tom Cruise could have flown better than me. Not just his character in the movie, but Tom Cruise himself.” He described the moments surrounding a space shuttle’s blastoff with exhilarating detail, slowing down so the audience could share his awe of floating through space and looking back on his home planet. He marveled about the time he sat between Neil Armstrong and John Glenn at dinner. He joked about his wife’s crush on Bono, the lead singer of U2, who keeps a picture of Giffords on his desk.