Commander John Herrington, the first Native American astronaut, is expected to be cycling into Ada from Oklahoma City this evening, completing another step of his three-month “Rocketrek” ride across the country. Herrington began his ride in Cape Flattery on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula and plans on finishing up in Florida’s Cape Canaveral. The former naval aviator and NASA astronaut will also be speaking this evening at East Central University’s Estep Center at 7 p.m.

Herrington was scheduled to depart from Pro Bike, a bicycle shop in Oklahoma City at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. He was expected to be accompanied by an entourage of cyclists as he departs from OKC.

After arriving in Ada, Herrington will speak in ECU’s Estep Center, an event organized by Ada’s International Coalition of ECU Cyclists. On Wednesday he said he will be speaking to students in both Ada and Sasakwa.

Herrington is currently expected to continue his trek on Thursday, and should leave Ada at around 9 a.m. that morning. He’ll be leaving from the Chickasaw Nation Headquarters (on Mississippi and Arlington). Herrington said he will be leaving town headed east, toward McAlester. Those interested in riding with Herrington as he departs can do so by being at the departure site Thursday morning.

According to his Web site (www.rocketrek.com), the purpose of the Rocketrek is to “promote and encourage student participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). The route is expected to take three months and will cross the states of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Stops are planned in each state where Commander Herrington will discuss his journey to the space program, the wonders of flying in space and the need for students to realize their potential that lies within.”

Herrington was born September 14, 1958 in Wetumka, Oklahoma. He began his military career in 1984 and has since logged over 4,000 flight hours in more than 30 different types of aircraft. In 1996 Herrington was tapped by NASA and after two years of training was qualified for flight assignment as a mission specialist. In 2002 Herrington flew on the STS-113, where he logged over 330 hours in space. After his flight Herrington became a Capsule Communicator, and later assisted international space station training efforts with both the U.S. and Russia. As his final assignment, Herrington was picked to become the Chief Engineer for Safety and Mission Assurance at the Johnson Space Center. In 2005 Herrington retired from the U.S. Navy and left NASA to pursue a career in the commercial space industry. He is now a special advisor to the National Institute for Space, Science and Security Centers for the University of Colorado. He also chairs the American Indian Institute for Innovation, a non-profit organization which seeks to improve opportunities for Native American students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.