Tuesday, March 31, 2009

National Space Symposium Opening Ceremonies

Opening Ceremonies of the National Space Symposium

Where do I start? The opening ceremonies were absolutely amazing. The Space Symposium is at the Broadmoor Hotel. This is one of the nicest hotels you will ever see. It is beautiful. It is nestled right next to the mountains. It has its own lake and a huge championship golf course. My wife and I showed up early and waited around for the doors to open. As people started showing up, we got to see some friends that work for the Space Foundation and some other teacher liaisons that we had met last summer. Once they opened the doors we went to our seats. We were literally six rows back, right in the middle. We had AWESOME seats. As people start coming in it was really a game of trying to pick out who was who. A congressman, Charlie Walker, walked in that I recognized and another one was pointed out to me. The governor of Colorado was there as well as several astronauts. We also saw the Chinese delegation including one of their taikonauts (Chinese word for astronaut). He was actually wearing his flight suit (see picture below). Neil deGrasse Tyson came in, he is a pretty famous astrophysicist and a really funny guy. Finally the opening ceremonies started with the Colorado Springs Symphony playing the Star Trek theme song. Now, I’m not usually a big fan of that type of music but they were amazing. Everything was choreographed to videos that played on a huge screen behind them. This is the 25th anniversary of the space symposium and the video was a retrospective. I actually got choked up when they showed a picture of the Columbia astronauts that were lost when the Space Shuttle burned up on reentry.

After they played, the president of the Space Foundation spoke. He was followed by the Governor of Colorado, Bill Ritter. What impressed me most was that both of them talked a lot about education. As a matter of fact, after the governor spoke, all of the teacher liaisons were asked to stand up and they turned the spotlights on us and everyone applauded. It was pretty cool to know that a bunch of congressman, astronauts, and astrophysicists were applauding what we do, really cool also to be standing next to my wife for that part.

Next up they gave out a bunch of awards including the Alan Shepherd technology in education award. I actually applied for this award this year and was finalist. The guy that won did a huge state wide program in Florida. My project wasn’t nearly as cool or as large in scope but it was cool being a finalist. I will try again next year.

As the ceremonies closed, my wife and I made our way up to the stage where we got a chance to meet the Chinese Taikonauts as well as Neil deGrasse Tyson, and one of the congressmen. I was also walking around and saw Ron Sega, who was a space shuttle astronaut and got him to sign my program.

Chinese Taikonaut

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson

When we left there, we went to the exhibit hall which is really cool. I will post pictures of it later but all of these space companies were giving away all kinds of stuff. As a matter of fact, I’m going to be giving away some of it in class after spring break and for the first SVMS student to email me and tell me that they read this, they will get a special prize.

Finally we walked over to the actual hotel (the other stuff had been in a big exhibit hall) and had a desert reception – weirdest desert reception ever, they had a chocolate bar with strawberries, etc. but they also had pizza and mini cheeseburgers. It was all good but an odd mix.
Overall it was an absolutely exhilarating night. Things like this get me really fired up to get back to the classroom and incorporate some of what I’ve learned. It was great to know that on this big stage (7,500+ people in attendance) the Governor of Colorado, and the president of the Space Foundation both made it a point to talk about education and how important it was. They recognized all of the teachers and made sure that everyone there, that was not a teacher, needed to support education. Really powerful stuff!

To end the night, my wife and I walked out to the terrace at the Broadmoor that overlooked the lake and there was the crystal clear sky, crescent moon, and Orion looking down on us. What a perfect end to a great day and the beginning of a fun week.

Bobby and Emi, our good friends that we are staying with in Colorado Springs, Bobby works for the Space Foundation and does amazing things to help teachers bring space into their classrooms!

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