Earlier this summer when former NASA astronaut Dr. Bernard Harris Jr. was brainstorming ways to engage the Vineyard community with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, he pondered the feasibility of bringing a space capsule to Oak Bluffs.

The Steamship Authority may not have room for a spaceship on its boats, he thought, and its assembly in Alley Waban Park would require many hands.

A panel of Black astronauts shared their stories. — Jeanna Shepard

But Gwen Griffin, the executive director of aerospace company Blue Origin’s STEM education foundation, assured him it was possible.

Weeks later on Wednesday, August 2, the New Shepard space capsule arrived to the Island on its own boat, and temporarily made a home in Oak Bluffs for From STEM to the Stars, a two-day STEM education event hosted by Blue Origin, the National Math and Science Institute (NMSI), NASA and Raytheon Technologies.

“This is an experience that allows people to touch the [space craft], listen to experts talk about it and hear from people who have actually gone to space,” said Dr. Harris, who is on the board of NMSI. “We’re here to promote access to high quality STEM education.”

The park’s neighbors watched for several days as the capsule was erected on the lawn, and on August 4 and 5, joined by people from across the Island, they finally had the chance to explore the capsule and other events From STEM to the Stars had to offer.

“It’s exciting because we’ve been watching this all unfold day by day,” said Gaby Sulzberger, who lives near the park and was waiting to enter the space capsule.

On both days, attendees had the chance to hear from six Black current and former NASA astronauts who discussed their careers and experience in space.

“I’m one of those people who never ever dreamed of being an astronaut,” said former astronaut Charles Bolden on Friday.

From STEM to Stars was put on to introduce more young people to science, technology, engineering and math. — Jeanna Shepard

Mr. Bolden explained that he initially became a pilot after attending the U.S. Naval Academy. It wasn’t until he met astronaut and physicist Ronald McNair that he began pursuing NASA’s space program and became enthralled with the idea of traveling to space.

“Ron asked if I was going to apply for the space program and I said…’Ron, they’d never pick me,’” Mr. Bolden said. “He then said, ‘That is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. How do you know if you don’t ask?’”

With Mr. McNair’s encouragement, Mr. Bolden applied, and was selected to go to space in 1981. He said that to this day, he credits much of his career to Mr. McNair and other mentors who paved the way for Black people in space and STEM.

The other astronauts followed with their stories that, though different from one another, highlighted similar figures in their lives who inspired them to pursue NASA’s space program.

Astronaut Victor J. Glover said that his current mission is to find NASA’s next generation of astronauts and expose students to STEM career options. He then welcomed 15-year-old pilot Connor Clinkscale to the stage to talk about his hope to go to space.

“I am looking for my replacement, and in order to ensure that I have one I need a pool of young people like Connor,” said Mr. Glover.

Connor Clinkscale, left, talks with astronaut Victor Glover. — Jeanna Shepard

Connor began taking flight lessons at 12 years old in Atlanta, Ga. Earlier this year, he was in a harrowing plane crash, nicknamed by pilots as the “Impossible Turn,” that nearly killed him and his instructor.

“It’s called the impossible turn because it has a really high mortality rate,” he said. “You’re up there and the engine fails, and in most situations the plane crashes and explodes.”

Connor said that he knows his career is risky and that going into space will be frightening, but his aspirations are unwavering. He hopes to find and connect with more kids like himself with out-of-this-world dreams.

“Once you capture that heart, like Connor has, we can fill the head,” said Mr. Glover. “Connor wants to be an astronaut, and we are going to do everything in our power to make sure that he and people like him become one.”