By Zach Taylor, University Relations Student Writer 

In support of the world’s first commercial space flight in 2014, the UTC Challenger STEM Learning Center participated in a live Google Hangout streamed live around the world.   The event was sponsored by the National Challenger Center Network, Virgin Galactic, and Galactic Unite.

The Google Hangout was held Tuesday, December 3 at noon.  See it in its entirety at https://plus.google.com/+VirginGalactic.

On the day of the Google Hangout, a group of students from Ooltewah Middle School took a simulated mission to the moon at the UTC Challenger Stem Learning Center.  Following the mission, the Ooletwah students joined Dr. June Scobee Rodgers, founding chairman of the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, and Perry Storey, Director of the UTC Challenger STEM Learning Center to form one of five groups from Challenger Learning Centers across the country that participated in a live question and answer session with a panel of Virgin Galactic Future Astronauts and Virgin Galactic representatives.

The panel included:

– Will Pomerantz – Virgin Galactic Vice President of Special Projects

– Marissa Good – Virgin Galactic Propulsions Design Engineer

– Loretta Whitesides – Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut Galactic Unite Program and Partnerships Committee Chair

– Ron Rosano – Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut Galactic Unite Program & Partnerships Committee Member

– Edwin Sahakian – Virgin Galactic Future Astronaut

Students from Ooltewah Middle asked several questions.  “Will Virgin Galactic ever build a space hotel?” asked one student.  Whitesides was enthusiastic in her response.

“I hope so, I’d like to stay there!” she said.  “I love it that you guys are thinking about futuristic things.”

Dr. June Scobee Rodgers expressed her appreciation for the Google Hangout and the future astronauts.  “We all want to know where we can sign up for a flight,” she said.

The first commercial space flight is scheduled for August 2014, as Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, his two children, and yet to be named passengers and crew will be carried to an altitude of 68 miles on a suborbital trajectory.

For more information about the UTC Challenger STEM Center, call (423) 425-4126.

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