NASA physicist Paul Davidson had just ended a presentation to the seventh-graders at Mount Mourne School on March 11, covering everything from catastrophic failures to deep space exploration, when a student asked, “Have you ever seen an alien?”
“Not yet, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t looking,” said Davidson.
He explained that the Kepler Mission, a space observatory launched by NASA in 2009 with the primary mission of finding planets similar to earth, was looking for life forms, too.
The science teachers at the middle school organized the Phoenix Rising Day for their students as part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum.
In another room Davidson’s daughter-in-law, Jennifer Denzler, was demonstrating the gloves used by the astronauts and how hard it is to pick things up with them.
Sashank Kannan, 12, struggled with trying to pick up a marble with a glove on his hand, “No way, I can’t do it,” he said.
Denzler also showed the students a space suit and the foods astronauts have to eat in space. Everything is dehydrated, even ice cream, “to save space and weight,” she said. The dehydrated food comes in a bag and the water is mixed with the food in the bag.
When she showed the students the dinner plate – a flat board with Velcro to attach the food bags – the room filled with laughter as she attached a bag and said, “and then they would slurp it up with a straw.”
On the field in back of the school, the eighth-grade class lined up on the hill to watch students launch the model rockets that they had built. Each rocket carried signatures of the students from the classes they were made in.
When the students counted down from five to one, 14-year-old John Tobin pushed the button on the battery pack, which ignited the engine, launching one of the rockets. As everyone looked up, John started moving back when the parachute deployed.
He soon began running across the field in an attempt to catch the rocket before it hit the ground and caused any damage. He had to dive at the end, barely catching the parachute string just before the body hit the ground.
Gabriel Mack said the day had been a lot of fun, but the best part was the rocket launch.
“The rocket went a lot higher than I thought it would,” said Gabriel. His classmate Adam Weber, 13, agreed the rocket launch was the best part of the day. “It was cool to see the parachute as it spiraled to the ground,” Adam said.
Marty Price is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Marty? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org