SEKY city buzzing following Axiom shuttle launch

WYMT Mountain News Weekend Edition newscast at 6 p.m. on Sunday
Published: May. 21, 2023 at 9:26 PM EDT
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MIDDLESBORO, Ky. (WYMT) - There was a buzz in Middlesboro Sunday, and it was not because of a Yellow Jackets’ sporting event.

“You see businesses with painted windows. We have t-shirts, you know. Banners up over the train trestle downtown,” Middlesboro Schools STEM Director Chris Stotts said.

The town was decorated with a space theme as they celebrated a rocket launch that had more of a local feel.

Of the four astronauts aboard the second private Axiom Space mission, one man raised in Middlesboro was the pilot, John Shoffner.

“So, it has been really inspiring. Just seeing the entire community rally behind John, and his willingness to take us on his journey,” Stotts said.

Even though Shoffner lives in Knoxville, he helped start the STEM program at Middlesboro Schools.

“Seeing John’s excitement and passion, to continue that in his hometown, is truly inspiring, and, through his generosity and his goodness, he’s gonna open doors to our students, and not just our students, but really our entire community and our area at large,” Stotts added.

When the shuttle finally blasted off, a logo on Shoffner’s suit, representing the mission and the city of Middlesboro, also launched into space.

“We have three girls here from the high school, sit down, and in a day’s time, they knocked that out, and they just blew it out of the water. It’s a phenomenal design,” Stotts said about the logo.

The Middlesboro Schools STEM program plans to host a live video conversation with Shoffner while he is in space.

The conversation is scheduled for Friday, May 26.