Three years ago, 15-year-old high school student Matthew Cho lived a happy, everyday teenage life in Manhattan until his world was turned upside down. Matthew was diagnosed with a brain tumor, resulting in two surgeries to remove the malignant mass. When Matthew awoke after the second surgery, he was left completely blind. The sudden loss of sight shocked Matthew and his family and created a challenging roadmap that required mental fortitude and painstaking hard work to get his life back on track. Matthew transferred to the New York Institute, a school designed to help students with disabilities, and started receiving services at Lighthouse Guild, a nonprofit organization that assists people who are blind and visually impaired.
Just three years later, 18-year-old Matthew has conquered this hardship more than he ever thought possible. He’s getting set to graduate high school, has continued his passion for playing and teaching music, and recently returned from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, where he participated virtually in a mission in outer space!
The Artemis I mission aboard the Orion Spacecraft made history in November as the first un-crewed rocket ever sent to space. How? Alexa, the AI voice of Amazon, powered the rocket. Earlier this year, Amazon and Lockheed Martin announced plans to integrate Alexa into the Orion spacecraft for Artemis I, the first of several NASA missions intended to bring the first woman and the next man to the Moon. Alexa jointed the mission as part of Callisto, a technology demonstration payload developed by Lockheed Martin. Alexa was inspired by the computer on board the Starship Enterprise from the famous TV series Star Trek.
On December 9, Matthew was chosen to represent Lighthouse Guild at NASA’s space station to join the virtual Artemis Crew and tour the facility. During the tour, Matthew learned about the process that astronauts must go through to prepare for missions, and the challenging conditions they face while in space. He was also able to touch the various materials that are part of the astronaut suit to protect them from the extreme conditions. Matthew said, “The coolest part of the tour was feeling the material of the astronaut’s suit!”
From the Artemis command center at Mission Control, he communicated directly with Alexa, asking questions about the mission and giving commands. Some of the questions included asking Alexa how many miles away Orion was from Earth, and how fast the rocket was traveling. He also commanded Alexa to change the light within the spacecraft to green, and got Alexa to recite a fun space rap.
Matthew said, “It was a truly emotional experience. I felt, WOW! I got to be one of three people in the whole world, in the whole country that talked to Alexa while she was in space.” Talking about the experience, Matthew explained, “It just feels like I’m in a totally different world, like I’m in outer space. It’s just a wonderful opportunity. I feel that being part of this, listening to everything as a visually impaired person, it reminds me just how far technology has come and what’s in store in the future.”
The first Artemis mission ended on Sunday December 11th when it splashed down off the coast of San Diego.
Jeremy Morak is a Marketing Manager at Lighthouse Guild.
Reprinted with permission from Able News.