By Deborah Huth Price
If you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, one of the professions most likely to be mentioned is astronaut. Exploring space is the dream of many children, particularly since the manned space missions began in the 1960s.
An important factor about an interest in space exploration is the importance of math and science. Very few individuals are actually chosen to be astronauts, but many support space flight through a wide variety of careers. In Colorado alone, companies like Lockheed Martin, Ball Aerospace and a slew of others support the efforts of exploration beyond this world.
This high concentration of space-related companies in the state is one of the reasons Discovery Science Center in Fort Collins was chosen to participate in Virtual Space Community, a program sponsored by Space Center Houston, the public outreach face of NASA. Discovery Science Center is one of only four science museums chosen in the country so far to participate in the program. Tapping into the education department of Space Center Houston, Discovery Center now offers video conferences, math and science based curriculum, teacher training and other space-related projects and activities.
I was lucky enough to be selected to coordinate the program in Colorado, which included a free trip to Houston. I took part in behind-the-scenes tours at NASA, including a visit to the original Mission Control room for the Apollo missions. And yes, I was just as excited as any kid!
The first event offered through Discovery Science Center was a video conference about our solar system. Children and adults were invited to participate in this interactive event, presented specifically for the museum. Children always ask great questions, and this was no exception.
“If there is no oxygen in space, how can stars burn?
“How do we know that the gaseous planets are really made of gas?”
“How do astronauts eat in space?
The last question prompted our presenter to instantly show a video of astronauts enjoying the pleasure of eating in a free-floating environment, and it’s not just “space sticks” anymore. As I learned in the food preparation lab in Houston, most of the food astronauts eat is pretty tasty — sometimes prepared specifically for each astronaut’s preferences.
For the answers to the other questions, you may have to come to the center and investigate for yourself. Coming up on Saturday, April 4, Discovery Science Center will host a second videoconference on the history of manned space flight. Sixth grade teachers from the Poudre District will be trained on space science lessons this summer, a special event will honor the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing and other surprises follow in the fall. The partnership of Discovery Science Center with the Fort Collins Museum will bring an added dimension to the project. Keep watching for upcoming details, or call (970) 472-3992 for more information.
The stars are out — both in the sky and traveling from earth! A student you know may be a budding astronaut or aerospace engineer. Are you ready for launch?
Deborah Huth Price is Education Coordinator at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area near Masonville and also does education programming at Discovery Science Center in Fort Collins.
<p><span style=”font-size: small;”><span style=”font-family: arial,helvetica,sans-serif;”>Visitors to Discovery Science Center investigate a homemade telescope during a recent Virtual Space Community event.</span></span></p>