Taking it to space

Published 9:05 pm Thursday, September 24, 2009

Forget about making it to homeroom down the hall, try figuring out how to get all the way to Mars and back.

That’s exactly the task left to high school juniors across the state who are chosen to participate in the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars program, which is sponsored by the NASA Langley Research Center as well as the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

“The pilot program was modeled after the distance learning program designed at NASA’s Johnson Space Center,” said Lisa Johnson, public affair specialist for NASA Langley Research Center. “It identifies and recognizes students are who talented in the science, technology, engineering and math subjects, and rising seniors who complete the program will receive college credit and get real world work experience and mentoring from NASA experts.”

The program is in its third year, and gives students will have access to master educators in an online classroom to get feedback on various assignments throughout the semester. Additionally, they learn through a series of online games, video segments and simulations. Some students will even be selected to go to the NASA center in Hampton to spend a week with NASA experts to work through an entire curriculum that includes planning a mission to Mars, design and build robotic covers and learn more about NASA careers.

According to a NASA press release, if the program is completed, students can receive up to four class credits from Thomas Nelson Community College.

The program is free and open for high school juniors, but the deadline to apply is Nov. 6

Last year, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy’s Andrea Beale took part in the program as well as many other regional students.

“It sounded like a lot of fun,” Beale said. “I liked it a lot. It was really informational. I learned a lot there.”

Beale said specifically she learned more about how NASA works, how missons are planned and she even got to meet with an astronaut.

“It’s a very good experience,” Beale said. “You can learn a lot, especially if you are interested in the space field or engineering field.”

For more information on the VASTS program and for an application, visit www.vasts.spacegrant.org online.