Thursday, July 12, 2007

NASA Aerospace Institute - Day 10 (last day): Well our phenomenal institute experience ended with a BANG when we were given a final VVVIP tour of the NASA facilities. The day started off with a workshop about survival in space, and then we had the honor to receive behind-the-scenes tours of both the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) and launch pad 39B. At the VAB we witnessed the assembly of the next Endeavour shuttle mission, which will launch in July with Barbara Morgan aboard. Ms. Morgan will be the first educator astronaut in history; and,consequently, she taught in Quito, Ecuador for two years and was also the backup person for Christa McAuliffe in 1986. This will truly be a momentous launch! Viewing the launch pad up close was also intriguing because we could view the escape baskets and bunkers, the crawler in the distance (which transports the shuttle stack), and the historic location where many launches have taken place.

To add frosting to the cake, the group of 30 educators and the institute coordinator (Dr. Romjue) jelled so well throughout our time together that not only did we leave with a wealth of knowledge and newfound experience, but we now also have international friendships to build upon. This experience was, hands down, out of this world!

Today's (final) factoid: In 2010 the shuttle missions will cease and Russia will continue to supply and service the International Space Station. At this time the Constellation Program will take over to take us to "the moon, Mars and beyond". The goal is that by 2014 a newly manned spacecraft, called Orion, will return us to the moon on the Ares Mission; and, between 2018 and 2020 four astronauts will have a permanent presence on the moon. What takes place after that will be a marvel to see!

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