Dear LA Teacher,
Whatever happened to the exciting space programs of the 1950s, 60s and 70s that inspired my generation? Like Gemini, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle? This was a time when the Soviet Union sent up Sputnik, Laika the dog, and the first human in space. America responded with Alan Shepard becoming the first American in space and President Kennedy challenging the country to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade. And we did it when on July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. Today the space race is over and our kids seem to be drifting. What’s being done to create dreams and motivate future scientists and astronauts?
Dear Befuddled Grandpa,
When there is only one superpower the incentive is diminished. But dreams do live on. Here are three examples…
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) was launched from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia on September 6, 2013 to gather detailed information about the structure and composition of the thin lunar atmosphere, and to see if moon dust is being jettisoned into the luna sky. NASA researchers believe this information will help them understand celestial bodies like asteroids, other moons, and even small planets like Mercury. As planned, LADEE crashed into the backside of the moon on April 18, 2014.
While LADEE was finishing up her mission, Dragon was starting his supply run. On April 18 the SpaceX cargo ship lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida and rocketed to the International Space Station (ISS). It is planned to dock with the ISS Easter Sunday bringing 2.5 tons of supplies.
Dragon’s supplies to the ISS include a new spacesuit, food, legs for NASA’s humanoid, Robonaut, various scientific experiments, and private Easter care packages from the families of the six astronauts working on the ISS.
Don’t forget, the ISS is an international effort. It’s had continuous human occupation for almost 14 years and has been visited by over 200 people. It’s not only an orbiting laboratory, but also a spaceport for a variety of international spacecraft. As of June 2013 there have been 89 Russian launches, 37 space shuttle launches, 3 operational flights by Space X’s Dragon, 3 Japanese HTVs (unmanned transfer vehicles) and 3 European ATVs.
It’s imperative our children hear and read about America’s space program, international space efforts like the ISS, and the commercial programs in progress like SpaceX. Programs like these spark imaginations, motivate creativity, form alliances, and provide a vision or road map for our young people to follow.
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