Educators take to Capitol Hill to discuss training students for NASA


WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) – As NASA works to get back to the moon, the space agency needs more rocket scientists to help get astronauts to Mars and beyond.

Educators were on Capitol Hill Tuesday to discuss with a Senate committee how they are training current students to become the future space workforce.

Fifty years after the first man walked on the moon, the U.S. wants to cement its place in space with not only a station on the moon, but by sending astronauts to Mars and beyond.

“None of these missions would have been possible without the support and partnership of America’s educational system,” said U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).

Wicker and the rest of a Senate committee heard from educators about how current students will help accomplish these goals as future NASA scientists, engineers and mathematicians.

“I can tell you from personal experience that nothing can hook a young college student into a NASA career faster than working on a real-world problem with NASA engineers,” said Dr. Josh Gladden, University of Mississippi Vice Chancellor of Research.

Dr. Gladden said the missions, and the tools astronauts need to accomplish them, will only become more complex as they discover more of the galaxy so students have to be ready.

That’s why Shella Condino said she’s taking the same real-world approach with her high school Physics students in Virginia.

“Who does not enjoy hands on and minds on activities? Or the adventure of putting theory into practice? Or bringing knowledge to life?”

Both Condino and Gladden worked on student projects that sent experiments to the International Space Station, but they say opportunities like this depend on funding that’s often hard to get.

Sen. Wicker and his colleagues plan to introduce NASA’s next budget later this week.

It should include money that encourages high school students to pursue STEM careers and establish more research opportunities for college students, especially for women, minorities and those from rural areas.

NASA just announced that three minority-serving universities in Alabama, Texas and Virginia will receive more than a million dollars to help address some of its manufacturing needs.

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