NASA as­tro­naut urges chil­dren to shoot for the stars

First Charles County “Space in the Com­mu­nity” event draws more than 200

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @JamieACIndyNews

The won­ders of space ex­plo­ration and tech­nol­ogy were on dis­play for more than 200 com­mu­nity mem­bers Wed­nes­day at the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter.

The sci­ence cen­ter served as host to “Space in the Com­mu­nity,” a com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive of the non­profit Space Foun­da­tion, a Colorado-based non­profit that pro­vides ed­u­ca­tional op­por­tu­ni­ties re­lated to the STEM fields: sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math.

“The pur­pose of the pro­gram is to get com­mu­ni­ties in­volved in STEM ed­u­ca­tion in the lo­cal ar­eas in the com­mu­ni­ties, get them to un­der­stand why space is im­por­tant to their way of life and get them to see why STEM is im­por­tant to their com­mu­ni­ties,” said Bryan De­Bates, di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion for the Space Foun­da­tion.

The Space Foun­da­tion has pro­vided pro­fes­sional development cour­ses to Charles County Pub­lic Schools for 10 years, De­Bates said.

The Space Foun­da­tion had also hosted an an­nual lun­cheon for teach­ers, school of­fi­cials and com­mu­nity lead­ers, but this year they de­cided to do some­thing dif­fer­ent, said Kim­berly Hill, CCPS su­per­in­ten­dent.

“It was time to look into bring­ing the com­mu­nity in to a phe­nom­e­nal re­source, the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter. This fa­cil­ity is one-ofa-kind on the East Coast, in a pub­lic school, and so we wanted the com­mu­nity to see what we have,” Hill said.

Wed­nes­day evening’s event was lim­ited to 250 par­tic­i­pants, and the slots filled up fast, said Monique Wil­son, di­rec­tor of the sci­ence cen­ter.

“We sent the email at 8:40 [a.m.] on a Mon­day, and it was full by that Wed­nes­day,” Wil­son said.

Free din­ner and a shut­tle bus were pro­vided to help make the event more ac­ces­si­ble for fam­i­lies, Wil­son said.

Hands-on ro­bot­ics demon­stra­tions, moon rover sim­u­la­tions, draw­ing ac­tiv­i­ties and more were avail­able to com­mu­nity mem­bers at­tend­ing the event.

Sto­ry­teller Geral­dine Buck­ley re­counted tales from an­cient Greece, Africa, Ja­pan and Amer­i­can In­dian lore about the for­ma­tion of the heav­ens and the stars, be­neath the sci­ence cen­ter’s Dig­i­tal Dome Class­room, show­ing im­ages of the night sky.

“They started to tell sto­ries about the things around them, par­tic­u­larly the sky. They saw the sky change, it changed with the dif­fer­ent sea­sons, but some parts didn’t, and they wanted to make sense of it, so they started to tell sto­ries, peo­ple from all over the world told sto­ries,” Buck­ley said.

The high­light of the evening was a talk by NASA as­tro­naut Anna Fisher, the old­est ac­tive Amer­i­can as­tro­naut.

Fisher, who stud­ied to be a physi­cian, was se­lected as an as­tro­naut can­di­date in 1978, one of the first six fe­male can­di­dates.

“When I was 12 years old, I had my first thought of be­com­ing an as­tro­naut, but I didn’t think it was a re­al­is­tic goal, and so many years later, I found out about the selec­tion of the first astro­nauts for the space shut­tle, I ap­plied the day be­fore the deadline,” Fisher said. “In Au­gust of ‘77, I found my­self in­ter­view­ing for the most won­der­ful job I could ever dream of hav­ing.”

In 1983, she was se­lected for her first mis­sion, two weeks be­fore the birth of her daugh­ter.

“So I was a new mom and a new as­tro­naut,” Fisher said.

In 1984, Fisher be­came the first “mother in space” as part of the STS51-A mis­sion on­board the Space Shut­tle Dis­cov­ery.

“Be­ing in space is just so much fun,” Fisher said. “It was an amaz­ing, amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“Once you go up there you re­al­ize what a frag­ile, won­der­ful planet we have, and you look out into the vast dark­ness of the rest of the uni­verse, it’s pretty sober­ing,” Fisher added.

The Dis­cov­ery is now at the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

“I get to go visit it when I come to visit the area,” Fisher said.

Fisher, as a man­age­ment as­tro­naut, is cur­rently work­ing on the Orion Project, a NASA crewed ve­hi­cle de­signed to take astro­nauts be­yond Low Earth Or­bit.

“What I hope we’re go­ing to do is go back to the Moon and learn how to live in space, how to grow your own food, these sen­si­ble things, be­fore you try to go to Mars, but we’ll see what the politi­cians de­cide. But what we ul­ti­mately want to do is go to Mars,” Fisher said.

Fisher told the younger mem­bers of her au­di­ence who were in­ter­ested in be­com­ing astro­nauts that they could achieve their dreams.

“With the way tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing so fast, I can’t imag­ine the things you’re go­ing to get to see and ex­pe­ri­ence in your life­times, you’re liv­ing in won­der­ful times. Work hard in high school and fol­low your dreams,” Fisher said.

Wil­son said the event was a great way to show­case what the Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter has to of­fer.

“I felt it was im­por­tant to have a free ac­tiv­ity here at the start of the school year, so that par­ents know we’re here, and the sort of en­rich­ment ac­tiv­i­ties we can of­fer,” Wil­son said.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU

NASA as­tro­naut Anna Fisher signs au­to­graphs dur­ing the “Space in the Com­mu­nity” event at the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter Wed­nes­day night.

Demon­stra­tion of a 3-D printer dur­ing the “Space in the Com­mu­nity” event at the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter Wed­nes­day night.

NASA As­tro­naut Anna Fisher speaks with stu­dents and other com­mu­nity mem­bers dur­ing the “Space in the Com­mu­nity” event at the James E. Rich­mond Sci­ence Cen­ter Wed­nes­day night.

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