Kim Alix won’t be able to take her young students with her to an upcoming NASA space launch.
But she’ll take along their childlike enthusiasm and wonder.
The Providence Day Lower School science teacher recently responded to a tweet on NASA social media and was amazed to be notified she’s one of just 50 people selected to view the LADEE launch Sept. 6 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.
The Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer robotic mission, set to launch at 11:27 p.m., will attempt to “answer prevailing questions about the moon,” NASA says.
“I am pumped,” said Alix, who teaches students ranging from transitional kindergarten through fifth grade. The first Virginia coast launch to the moon is “my first NASA launch ever. I’ve only seen them on television.”
A lifelong follower of space exploration, Alix said she follows the International Space Station, NASA Social, even different astronauts who post pictures and other information to the people who follow them.
Her passion reaped an unexpected dividend in July.
“I saw this tweet asking if you wanted to be a part of a rocket launch. That was this LADEE launch,” she said. “I thought, ‘Wow, that sounds cool, I’m going to send them my info.’ Then I got an email saying that they had received my info but there were no spots, that they would wait-list me.
“Then about 10 days later I got another email saying I was, in fact, invited to the launch. When I saw the invitation, I was just, like, totally blown away. It was tremendously shocking that I was going to attend an actual rocket launch, to see a spaceship leave our planet and that I would be there, up close and personal, watching it.”
Quick to share the news with her students once school started, Alix invited them to ask questions about the launch and see if she could get them answered.
She was impressed by what they were most curious about: “things like how they decide the angle of the launch, why they’re starting at 11:27 instead of 11:30, things like that.”
“Providence Day School is covering my expenses to the launch,” she said. “Without that generous gift, I wouldn’t be able to attend at all.”
Alix said she doesn’t know exactly where on Wallops Island the launch will take place, but she will be advised of the itinerary soon.
“Even NASA employees are not allowed to experience this,” she said.
Those who will experience the Sept. 6 launch all share a love of space. Though she didn’t want to name names, Alix said they represent diverse walks of life: a music agent, astronomer, retired Navy chief, kindergarten teacher, Air Force pilot, bartender.
Her tweeting habit may take a vacation on the big day.
“People at NASA Social said that if this is your first launch, what you really should do is experience the launch and not worry about videoing it or tweeting it. They’re going to have their own videographers and media people there.”
NASA is “more than just sending rockets into outer space,” Alix said.
“I’m not sure everybody really realizes how much they actually contribute with spin-off technology, how a lot of their research helps the medical community.”
Alix hopes her excited curiosity rubs off on her students, but she says that’s a two-way street.
“I teach the young kids,” she said. “They keep me effervescent.”
Reid Creager is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Reid? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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