AUSTIN, Texas – 13 Apr 11
Space Day: Transporting NASA JSC to Austin
By: Heather L. Ogletree
Everyone should experience wearing an inflatable mascot costume at least once in their lives. The look on children’s faces as I approached in my Cosmo the Astronaut costume was priceless; their expressions composed of equal parts curiosity, excitement and wonder.
Where was I? Space Day, of course! And what is Space Day? It is a NASA Johnson Space Center educational event that is held once every two years in Austin in conjunction with the Texas State Legislature meetings.
Bob Musgrove, the acting JSC Education Director said, "Space Day was a great venue for NASA to use the excitement of space to inspire and engage elementary and middle school students near Austin, Texas. Our education exhibits and hands-on activities show students that science and engineering can be fun"
As the national office project coordinator for the Undergraduate Student Research Program (USRP), I joined 50 other NASA education, contractor, intern, co-op, and student volunteers on March 31, 2011, to support 19 educational activities for 775 students around the capitol lawn. The theme this year: “Destination Station,” celebrating 10 years of human habitation on the International Space Station. The activities included space tools demonstrations, inspirational speakers, space suit operations, creating and testing rockets, maneuvering mini-rovers, and NASA JSC mascots Commander Quest and Cosmo. Additionally, students and Texas representatives had a chance to tour exhibits inside the capitol building, which showcased the past, present and future of space flight.
According to Mike Kincaid, NASA JSC Administrative Program Manager, during Space Week 2011, NASA representatives with the support of its industry partners also had the chance to visit the Governor, Secretary of State, the floor of the Texas House and the Texas Senate, and the offices of the 13 Committee Chairs.
During their visits, they were able to inform the Texas Legislature about JSC’s role in space exploration and to update them on the Texas Aerospace Scholars (TAS) and Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program outcomes. To date, JSC has reached more than 5,600 students and teachers through TAS.
In the end, Space Day brought NASA to Austin, allowing NASA and its industrial counterparts to communicate with stakeholders and students alike, educating and instilling excitement for what is to come in the realm of space exploration and its terrestrial applications.
As Cosmo and then as Cosmo’s guide, I was fortunate to see all of the on-going activities and student reactions. I will never forget asking students what they thought of the day and hearing as the most common response, “Science is fun!”