LEAGUE CITY  — Before astronaut Kjell Lindgren leaves for the International Space Station, he had to show approximately 40 children how to put together a toy rocket.

Lindgren, who was accepted into the astronaut program in 2009, will leave for his first mission May 2015. Even though he has a heavy training schedule, he said he still tries to make time for educational outreach, which is why he agreed to speak at the Build & Launch a Rocket III event, hosted by Operation Redemption, at Bay Area Baptist Church on Saturday.

Operation Redemption is a faith-based program that aims to provide fathers, father figures and single mothers with activities and resources to improve relationships with their children.

Darell Rodgers, founder and president of the operation, invited Lindgren to come speak at the event.

“I love astronauts. Kids love astronauts. If you can get the kids here, they’re going to bring the parents, and we can get the parents and the kids engaged,” Rodgers said. “(Lindgren) has a passion for parenting. He’s a very authentic person. He knew I was doing this and wanted to be a part of it.”

Operation Redemption hosts an event every month that combines educational activities with faith training. Geocaching, karate and fishing are just a few examples of previous events.

Saturday’s event started with a speech by Lindgren, who later helped the kids and their parents put together the toy rockets.

“The training schedule is so busy, but this is something that’s very important to me,” Lindgren said. “What an amazing opportunity to share the thrill of launching a rocket with these kids.”

He said he thinks activities like this create an interest in math and science, which children can take back to school and lean on for the rest of their lives.

“Math and science are not just important for flying in space, but they are fundamental life skills for success,” he said.

Hannah Kralik, 9, came to the rocket-building event with her 5-year-old brother, Samuel, and their father, who helped them put the finishing touches on their rockets and set them off in a field outside the church later in the morning. 

She likes space because of the planets and stars. Her favorite planet is Mars.

“I’ve never met an astronaut before,” she said. “It’s super cool.”

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