Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The next generation of space exploration

Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Sea Gate Elementary Principal Brian Castellani, left, with NASA Special Operations Manager Col. Joe Dowdy.

Citizen contributor Isabella Dipasquale is a sixth grade student at Pine Ridge Middle School.

It was a day of epiphany for many Sea Gate Elementary students, April 24, as Col. Joe Dowdy, of the Kennedy Space Center, presented a powerfully motivating program on the American space program.

Dowdy kicked off his presentation with a little bit of his own background, such as how he had served in the U.S. Marine Corps and is now retired. Currently working as NASA’s Special Operations manager, Col. Dowdy presented a stunning visual on the progress of the American space program and how much more we have yet to discover. The video also included clips of the Mercury 7 and photographs of Neil Armstrong taking his first steps on the moon. It was so very inspiring that many students, including myself, began considered joining America’s race to space by becoming an astronaut. Dowdy’s words fueled my thoughts that day. All I could concentrate on was the feeling of one day drifting within the walls of the International Space Station and becoming one of hundreds of brave people willing to dedicate their lives to increase the human awareness of outer space.

During his presentation, Col. Dowdy had all the children’s eyes glued to him in amazement. Everyone in the room was mesmerized by his words:

“The first person, man or woman, to step on the surface of Mars could be sitting in this room,” he said enthusiastically. “The future is here, you are part of it. Go forth and do great things!”

Dowdy’s encouraging words were enough to have kids talking about plans to fly to Mars and beyond when they grow up for the next week or so. Even now, those thoughts linger in my head in memory of that day of epiphany.

It is imperative that we discover planets beyond our little earth “bubble.” We can’t just stay put. There are entire new worlds to discover! In fact, thanks to space exploration, we now have the ever helpful Global Positioning System as well as so many other fairly new kinds of technology that we use in everyday life. Also, one day in the future, humans may need to evacuate from the earth so exploration of Mars and the Moon is essential for not one, but two back-up plans. Col. Dowdy has traveled to many schools in order to promote space exploration to help discover new worlds and make the earth as we know it a better place.

I was fortunate enough to witness the STS-125 space shuttle Atlantis launch. I remember transferring between the boiling bleachers and the air-conditioned Saturn V Center frequently. When the final moment came, my hair was matted with sweat from the heat and my very soul quivering with excitement.

The sound of the roaring engines was like a giant bag of popcorn popping in a colossal microwave. Then, the shuttle itself thrust into the sky and began pushing on up into a fluffy white cloud. When Atlantis had poked through the cloud and was lost, people continued cheering it on. I was one of those people, screaming my head off with a camera clenched in my sweaty palms.

Afterwards, my family and I rode back to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and carried on, shopping for souvenirs. When we had finally worn out my dad’s wallet, we drove back to Naples and followed the STS-125 space shuttle Atlantis online.

On Monday, May 18, 2009, the Atlantis crew concluded their mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. This was the fifth and final flight for space shuttle Atlantis, as well as the last repair crew being sent to patch up Hubble.

In conclusion, Dowdy’s presentation inspired my family and me to witness the STS-125 Atlantis shuttle launch, May 11. Now, their work is done and it’s time for NASA to spark new ideas for our world to advance in new technology to make our blue planet a more pleasant oasis.


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