HOUSTON - When 16-year-old Jessica Middleton went to her high school in metro Detroit on Wednesday, she had no idea what the day would hold.
She got a surprise call from NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and he invited her to the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
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The invitation process started when Cassidy spoke in Detroit several years ago and spoke with Middleton’s family. Middleton later wrote a ‘thank-you’ note to Cassidy. He said, "I was really touched and moved by receiving that. That kicked off with my brother and I trying to figure out how to surprise Jessica with a trip like this."
Cassidy’s brother runs a nonprofit campaign called Spread Positivity. Its goal is to increase kindness between people. The Cassidy brothers went to work looking for Middleton to recognize her kindness and secretly contacted her parents.
On Wednesday night, she flew to Houston.
On Thursday morning, she met Cassidy who first took her to the Neutral Buoyancy Lab -- a 6 million-gallon pool with a submerged space station model for training.
From there, Middleton was off to help Cassidy fly with a robot that simulates reduced gravity. She then went on to check out a model of the International Space Station were astronauts train. The model of the orbiting lab includes science laboratories, sleeping quarters and the Russian Soyuz capsule.
Cassidy said Middleton’s letter showed him her true kindness.
“If you're going to fly in space, you're going to be in a small capsule with people, so you really need to be a good person. Jessica has the makings to be an awesome astronaut," he said.
The tour ended with a look at NASA’s Mission Control for the International Space Station. It was the perfect end to what could launch a career for an aspiring astronaut.
"For me, I just thought he needed to know he made a huge impact on my life and thank you. I guess it means a lot more to people than you think," Middleton said.
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