Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Space Symposium Day 2 – Teacher Liaison Workshop Day

My brain is mush, I’m tired and I absolutely can’t wait to teach lessons back to Liberty tomorrow, and in my classroom after spring break. We knew that today was going to be really cool and it absolutely lived up to its billing. We started the day with the deputy director of the Jet Propulsion Lab, Lt. General Gene Tattini, talking to us. He walked us through a bunch of different things that JPL does including some of their 19 current mission, and some of their upcoming missions. One of the most exciting missions that he talked about will be launched in 2011. It is the Mars Science Lab. It will weigh close to a ton and will travel distances measured in kilometers, not just meters. It truly is the size of a small car and will not rely on solar panels, it will have its own plutonium powered nuclear generator. That will be a fun mission to follow. Also as an update, the Spirit and Opportunity rovers that were originally supposed to last for three months, are now going on 5 years of service. Lt. General Tattini also talked about the study of exoplanets (planets outside our solar system). Currently there have been 343 discovered but only one of them is earth sized. Most are the size of Jupiter or bigger. The Kepler mission that just launched this month will be looking for earth size planets. As you can tell this was an information packed presentation. I took over four pages of notes and I know that I missed some stuff.

Lt. General Gene Tattini

Our next speaker was Stephan Feldman, the president of the Astronaut Memorial Foundation. He talked about the foundation and the memorial at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. I’ve been to the memorial before and never really “got” it until today. It is a 50 foot tall by 40 foot wide reflective marble wall with the names of the astronauts who have perished in the line of duty. It is reflective so that the names look like they are in the clouds. I thought that was pretty cool. He also talked about the Alan Shepard Technology in Education Award. This award is sponsored by the AMF and the Space Foundation and the winner got regocnized at the opening ceremonies last night. I applied for the award this year. I didn’t win, and didn’t really expect to but I got a letter saying that I was a finalist. We found out today that there were four finalists, I don’t know if I was one of the four but I will definitely be applying again next year.

After those two got done speaking we spent most of the rest of the day doing teacher stuff. We learned about lessons involving space suits, space walking, landing on the moon and Mars, as well as got a ton of great information about other programs to bring back. I will be sharing some of the space suit information tomorrow when I video conference the lesson back. I don’t want to give too much away but I have some cool stuff to be sharing.
Mr. Gagnon (one of the amazing Space Foundation teachers, also a really good friend)

Probably the highlight of the day was a session called “The Astronaut Show: Down to Earth With the Guys From Space.” They brought in Shuttle Astronauts Fred Gregory and Jim Reilly, both flew on three shuttle missions. The third speaker was Livingston Holder. He was an astronaut but his flight was cancelled after the Challenger disaster. They all had some great stories and some great advice for kids and teachers. The videos below are a small part of what they had to say. Probably the biggest idea that I got from them was that no matter who you are, or where you live, or what your background, you truly can become whatever you want. I think Livingston said it best when he said, you know I didn’t get to go into space but on my journey I’ve gotten to do some really cool stuff.

Astronaut Jim Reilly

Livingston Holder

Fred Gregory, first African American Space Shuttle Commander

Another really cool thing happened at the end of the workshop today. One of the presenters had brought along a real Apollo space suit, this was a training suit used when we were going to the moon. My wife got to try it on! I am so jealous. After looking at the pictures you will understand the next thing I’m about to say. I would have loved to have tried it on (see picture of me in the helmet) but you would have needed a crow bar and some WD-40 to get me into our out of it. Check out the pictures of Sarah in the space suit.

Houston, we have a problem - My head is stuck!

I didn't think she was going to take the suit off.
Even Chrys from the Space Foundation got into the act.

Tomorrow Sarah has to fly back to Kansas City but before she leaves we will be hitting the exhibit center along with a little Knight (there is some really cool stuff to take his picture with). We are only two days into the week and it has been unbelievably cool, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will be like and I am completely excited to bring the things we learned today back and use them at South Valley.

P.S. This is the 150th post I've made to this blog! Woo Hoo!

P.S.S. Check out how snazzy I look in the suit - you don't see that too often.

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