Rice NASAversary!

Waxing Gibbous Moon 69 Percent 26Nov2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikebaird

Today’s post is from Dr. David Alexander, Rice Professor of Physics and Astronomy and creator of the Space Frontiers Lecture series. 

This has not been a good year for the space enthusiasts of Houston with the cancelation of the Constellation program, the end of an era with the last space shuttle flight, and the decision not to have one of the orbiters spend its retirement in Houston.

However, the people of Houston are known for rising to any challenge and the opportunity to enter a new phase of space exploration with the development of the multi-passenger crew vehicle, the continued operation of the International Space Station, and the push to maintain an American presence in space only emphasizes the importance of Houston and NASA to the nation.

Houston has been at the forefront of the human space adventure for five decades and this is a record worth celebrating.  Come join us in acknowledging the people whose dedication, excellence, and ingenuity put humans on the Moon (and brought them back again), created the “world’s greatest flying machine” in the Space Shuttle, and stimulated the imaginations of generations of would-be space explorers.

Welcome to a new and exciting year in the history of Rice University.

The 2011 incoming class is the 100th to walk through Rice’s historic Sallyport and the next year will see us work towards our centennial celebrations in October 2012.  Another major anniversary for Rice and the Greater Houston area is marked this September as we celebrate 50 years of the NASA Johnson Space Center and we are proud to note that Rice was there at the beginning.  September 14 marks the 50th anniversary of NASA Administrator James E. Webb’s decision, conveyed in person to President Kennedy, to build the NASA Manned Space Center in Houston (later to be named the Johnson Space Center) on land that was deeded to the government by Rice.  The public announcement of the location was made on September 19, 1961 and the manned space program made its home in Houston.

To celebrate a remarkable 50 years in human history, Rice and partners are hosting the Rice NASAversary, a week-long set of events from September 9 to 16.

To open the Rice NASAversary celebrations Rice will host Space City 2020, a space strategy workshop bringing together local academic, business, and government leaders to promote space technology and exploration. The culmination of the workshop will be a banquet with keynote speaker Dr. France Cordova, president of Purdue University and former NASA Chief Scientist.  The banquet is open to the public.

We celebrate our 50 years of connection to JSC on Wednesday, September 14, with the first in this year’s Space Frontiers Lecture Series

We are honored to host Mr. Norm Augustine, Chairman of the Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee.  Among many honors and awards, Mr. Augustine has been named one of the “Fifty Great Americans,” has received the National Medal of Technology from the President of the United States, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Distinguished Public Service Award and is five-time recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal from the U. S. Department of Defense.  The “Augustine Report”, the 155-page output from the United States Human Space Flight Plans Committee, is a comprehensive and critical assessment of the US human space flight program and what is needed to maintain American leadership in space.

Mr. Augustine’s talk, entitled The Greatest Obstacle to Human Space Travel, will be held at the McMurtry auditorium in Duncan Hall at 7pm on September 14 (reception at 6:30pm).

The Challenger Learning Center Inspires!

Today’s guest blogger is Tess Casswell, a Mission Control Operator at the Johnson Space Center here in Houston. Today she writes about how challenger space centers such as the one we have here at HMNS and at the George Observatory started her on the path to working for NASA. Start your own journey by joining us this Saturday for Family Space Day at the George Observatory!

I first participated in a Challenger Learning Center event when I was 11 years old. At that time the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska was in its development phase and I was immersed in the somewhat stereotypical, “when I grow up, I want to be an astronaut!” phase. Though I was still young, my parents saw this opportunity for inspiration. My Mother contacted the board of directors for CLCA and told them about their newest fan. Before I knew it I was giving a speech at a CLCA fundraiser in front of my heroes: astronauts Pete Conrad and Joe Allen. The timing of the event was perfect: the very next day I got on a plane and headed for Space Camp in Titusville, FL.

My Challenger Center experience set me on a course that landed me as a Mission Control Operator here at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

During the CLCA fundraiser, Joe Allen told me that to become an astronaut I should become an engineer. I followed his advice and now I monitor the Environmental and Thermal Operating Systems (ETHOS) of the International Space Station. While my excitement about space flight began before CLCA was developed, my first CLC experience gave direction to my enthusiasm.

Because the Challenger Center played such a pivotal role in inspiring me to pursue engineering, I do my best to make time for Challenger Centers wherever I live. During middle and high school I volunteered often at CLCA. I participated in several missions throughout the years and helped out with numerous summer camps. Of course, every time an astronaut visited Alaska I was able, through CLCA, to meet with them and pick their brains about how they reached their goals! Later, as a student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, I returned as often as possible to the Challenger Center to participate in STEM outreach events.

Now that I live in Houston, I go often to the Challenger Learning Center at the George Observatory. The missions there are fun and dynamic, and the observatory environment makes the location (and the groups who go there) unique! I hope that by volunteering I am able to pay forward the inspiration that the Challenger Center gave me.

Recently the NASA Education web site did a feature on Tess.

Upcoming Family Space Day at the George Observatory!

Come out to the George Observatory this Saturday for out-of-this-world fun! The Observatory is hosting Family Space Day, and this weekend there will be more fun than ever before. We hope you’ll join us for the adventure.

First, fly to the Moon on a simulated space mission aboard the Space Station Observer at the Challenger Learning Center.  Train just like the astronauts – you’ll run science experiments and control the spacecraft during your simulated voyage and landing. You may even have to overcome obstacles like meteor strikes and computer failures in order to land safely!

After returning safely from your simulated flight you will have the opportunity to speak with real NASA engineers and flight controllers who will be hosting various activities. Operate a robotic arm, build and launch a water rocket, or enjoy the exhibits at the Observatory – there will be a ton of cool, educational things to look at and experience!

It doesn’t stop there, either. Purchase a ticket for the George’s 36-inch telescope and be amazed by up-close-and-personal views of the heavens. Whether you get the chance to look at a galaxy light-years away or something as close as our very own Moon, the view is well worth the $5 ticket. Outside of the big telescope you will also have the opportunity to view the stars through various telescopes provided by local volunteers.

In short, it’s going to be awesome… so don’t miss it!
See the Observatory’s website for all of the details.