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Cosmonaut shares space trips with Tampa youths

From space, you can't see national boundaries.

"There is only snow, water and land," said Alexander Serebrov, a Russian cosmonaut.

Serebrov, 48, shared his experiences Friday with students from Forest Hills Elementary and Adams Junior High schools.

His message to the students was twofold: Accept the challenge of the future, and learn to cooperate with one another.

"It is necessary for the planet," he said. "Our planet is a spacecraft and the people are the crew, and what the crew does will determine the future."

Serebrov was invited to Tampa, along with his wife, Ekaterina Serebrov, by Lynn McDaniel, a teacher of gifted students and coordinator of Adams' Young Astronaut program.

Since 1984, McDaniel has been a leader in Young Astronaut, an international educational program that encourages the study of space and science.

Through the program, she traveled to Moscow. "I did an exchange in 1990, and Alexander hosted our group for the festivities in Moscow," she said.

Serebrov is in Florida for the International Young Astronaut Conference in Orlando next week.

In Russia, he was instrumental in starting a Young Cosmonaut program, which is the Russian counterpart to Young Astronaut. While in Tampa, he visited Forest Hills and Chamberlain High School. A tour of Busch Gardens also was on the agenda.

Serebrov told pupils that he was 38 years old when he took his first space flight. "But I prepared for it all my life."

During the assembly, several children had prepared questions for him.

Amber Miller, a pupil at Forest Hills, wanted to know what it looked like in space.

"As a physicist, it looked like a science laboratory," he said. "The Earth looked like a huge globe. It was exciting to see the planet from horizon to horizon."

It takes only 90 minutes to travel around the planet, he said.

Serebrov was the first cosmonaut to go outside the spaceship Mir, the Russian word for peace.

He rode a vehicle that he described as a chairlike devise, and he flew it 40 meters (about 44 yards) from the ship.

"It was absolute freedom and very exciting and powerful," he said. "I spent many days on a simulator, but the real thing is much better."

Kimberly Garcia, a 13-year-old from Adams Junior High student, was excited about the visit.

"This shows that we can learn from him and the Russians," she said. "As well as from people in the USA."

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