Space exploration—more relevant than ever!

Space. The Final Frontier.
Well, not really according to James Garvin, Chief Scientist for NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.  He insists, “Our exploration has just begun.”
Dr. Garvin was the keynote speaking during yesterday’s general session at the 2011 NSTA Hartford Area Conference.  He guided attendees through the evolution of the space program—through words and images—explaining the importance of blending science, space, engineering and IT.
The Apollo 11 voyage was ahead of its time, much like most space exploration. Something as inconsequential as Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin “planting” the United States flag involved awesome science and engineering to create the billowing effect of the flag.
Fast forward to more recent missions with Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiters and we see more examples of science, engineering and technology coming together. These types of missions have allowed NASA to develop a record book of cosmic collisions to study for years to come.
Dr. Garvin also led us through past exploration of other planets.

  1. Mercury: so close to the sun and so many different facets and signatures discovered, but the story still isn’t finished.
  2. Venus: so imperfectly unexplored because of the atmosphere.
  3. Earth: we’re poised to learn so much more about our planet; to use the data we have to more accurately predict catastrophic events like Katrina.
  4. Mars: massive canyons, collapsing oceanic volcanoes and more ice than we thought existed on the planet.

What does all this mean—we need science teachers!  To prepare our students for STEM careers so they can explore microgravity and asteroids or as Dr. Garvin pointed out so brilliantly, “To look into the dark space of our galaxy to see what’s going on” (because we look at the light places all of the time).
“The next chapter hasn’t been written yet,” said Dr. Garvin.  “Inspire your students so we can continue the work.”

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