Putnam to take part in astronaut call from space


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Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2013, 8:13 pm
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By Jonathan Turner, jturner@qconline.com
The Putnam Museum in Davenport is one of just six sites across the nation in the first half of the year to host a call from space, in NASA's "Teaching From Space" program.

On Friday, Jan. 25, 250 local K-12 students will gather in the Putnam's Giant Screen Theater to see a live video downlink from the International Space Station, and 20 pre-selected students will ask the astronauts questions.

"We really want to capture that inspiration, to be part of something amazing," Nichole Myles, the museum's vice president of education, said. "What's great about this particular event, we don't necessarily think in the Quad-City region, we can be part of NASA. But look at our employers, 3M and Alcoa -- you can grow up in this region, work in this region, and you can have a role in space."

"Our big goal is that they're inspired to study and pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math -- that makes them go, 'Wow, I could be that astronaut,'"NASA education specialist Becky Kamas said Wednesday from the Johnson Space Center.

"We're trying to let the students know, NASA is still here, we're still flying, and there's lots to look forward to for the future," she said.

For this six-month period, the Putnam was chosen by NASA from 40 applicants to offer the space downlink, she said, adding that NASA has broadcast to students from the Space Station since 2001, and 12 to 14 such astronaut calls are done each year.

The Putnam was chosen in part because it proposed a comprehensive package to educate the community about space exploration and research, she Ms. Kamas said.

"We don't want the downlinks to be a one-time thing," she said. "They put together a really nice education plan. We want students, teachers and the community to get excited, be prepared to ask really great questions of the astronauts."

"NASA is very focused on making sure the call was part of a bigger experience," Ms. Myles said. "The call for us is the pinnacle of what is a number of experiences."

They include a NASA aerospace educator from Alabama who will do a free teacher workshop on Jan. 24, and acurriculum is available to all teachers and student participants who take part in space-themed activities and visit the Putnam's new exhibition, "Destination: Space," which runs Jan. 26 through June 2.

On Jan. 25, there will be a day-long digital planetarium set up in the Grand Lobby.

"Destination: Space" shows how the world has been improved by space exploration as well as what it takes to enter the "final frontier." Authentic space artifacts, including pieces on loan from NASA and new interactive displays will help tell the story of the journey to space and advances made for those who remain on Earth, according to the Putnam.

Visitors will find interactive sections on astronauts, space communications, engineering and materials science, and will discover how regional employers have played a role in conquering space and how they can have a career that plays a part.

The teacher training and student space call gives a glimpse into what it's like to live and work on the Space Station, Ms. Kamas said. Astronauts spend six months on a mission, in low orbit, about 230 miles above Earth, and the station moves at 17,500 miles an hour, circling the Earth once every 90 minutes, she said.

"Because the Putnam is so committed to the full experience, we understand what that means," Ms. Myles said. "We want to hit all sides -- the teacher workshop, parents' activities, activities the day of the call, the exhibition. It becomes this wonderful package, truly a once-in-a lifetime experience."

Currently, the Space Station hosts twoAmericans, three Russians and a Canadian, she said.

The station has more than 15,000 cubic feet of habitable space, with nine rooms, twotoilets, two kitchens and two mini-gyms. NASA uses it to learn how to combat the physiological effects of being in space for long periods.

"The space station is our test bed for technologies and our decision-making processes when things go as planned and when they don't," the agency says."It is important to learn and test these things 240 miles up rather than encountering them 240,000 miles away while on the way to Mars or beyond."

The Moon is roughly 238,000 miles from Earth.

The Putnam securedgrants from the Iowa Space Grant Consortium and Alcoa to help fund the space exhibition and space call, Ms. Myles said.

"We are just so fortunate to have such a supportive industry in this community, to help bring these things to life," she said of Alcoa, which has provided protective coatings for space shuttles.




photo: Expedition 24 flight engineer Doug Wheelock uses a ham radio system on the International Space Station.







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