I got the opportunity to go to Johnson Space Center for a behind-the-scenes tour and to learn about what NASA has to offer educators. Today, I’m featuring pics and information from the tour. (Part 2 will have more information about all the opportunities and free resources that NASA has available to teachers.)
The tour was so awesome– I kept on looking around and thinking, “Am I allowed to be here?” Apparently, I was. On Tuesday, I spent about half the time trying to not look like Monica on Friends in the episodes they go to Barbados. Holy humidity, Houston! The rest of the day, I was touring and learning like a good penguin.
Several representatives from NASA talked to us about what is going on at the International Space Station (ISS) and how countries are working together to inspire students to work in exploration innovation. We learned about the research at ISS involving microgravity. They are testing things from DNA to convection, bone loss in astronauts to plant growth.
We also got to attend two press events with Mackenzie Davis and Sebastian Stan from The Martian. Ellen Ochoa, the Johnson Space Center Director (and famous astronaut), was at both events. She is simply amazing. I was definitely #fangirling, which would have been more embarrassing if I had actually attempted to say words. I forgot words.
For lunch, I ate a huge sandwich and tried not to be photographed with my mouth open. I think they mainly wanted pics of Ricky Arnold, a middle-school-teacher-turned-astronaut. He told us about how he became an astronaut and what it’s like to do a spacewalk. After teaching middle school science, working in marine sciences, and teaching at several international schools in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, West Papua, Indonesia, and Bucharest, Romania, he was selected to be a Mission Specialist for NASA.
My favorite part of the day was going to Mission Control and watching a conversation between The Martian cast members and astronauts at the International Space Station. Scott Kelly is halfway through his year in space. After the conversation, the families of the astronauts came in to say “hi” to dad. Very sweet stuff.
Tuesday night, I slept like a baby and was up and at ’em bright and early Wednesday morning. We started the day back at the Mission Control Center.
Kelly Smith, who worked on the Orion test last year, explained the Orion tests and future plans. As a fairly uninformed person, I’d wondered why we hadn’t gone to Mars yet. Well, a lot of tests are required, but it’s not just the development of technology. I hadn’t considered this before, but specialists need to learn how the human body is affected in a harsh environment.
They need to know what humans need not only to survive, but to have a productive mission. No one has spent over a year in space since 1995. Yes, 1995! The year-long mission astronaut Scott Kelly is on at the ISS will help scientists (like Dr. John Charles who spoke with us) figure out how to support humans in space for long periods of time.
After learning more about the Journey to Mars we headed over to the International Space Center Mockup and robotics area.
Thank you to Johnson Space Center for inviting me to attend this facilities tour. Brandi Dean, the coordinator, was knowledgeable and planned a great program. In Part 2, I’ll provide more information about the resources NASA offers to teachers (focusing on the elementary and middle grades) and some ideas I got for lessons from this experience.
Thanks for stopping by!