Space Lobby Docks At Fla. Capitol, Hoping For More STEM Education

Mar 6, 2013

NASA Booth at the Capitol for Florida Space Day
Credit Thomas Andrew Gustafson
Florida Space Day Booth at the Capitol
Credit Thomas Andrew Gustafson

Wednesday is the sixteenth Florida Space Day. In the Capitol, NASA and the Florida Space Day group are presenting the current and hopeful future of the Space Industry in Florida. And both the agency and the group’s wish for more space-based education was also seen in a NASA presentation at Tallahassee’s Cobb Middle School.

On the third floor in the Capitol Rotunda building, members of NASA stood around a booth on the left and members of Florida Space Day at a booth on the right. Though slightly separated by the few feet between them, the two groups share the same goal of space flight. The Florida Space Day group is made up of private space companies.

“We have thirty, thirty-one companies represented.” Says White.

That’s Don White is the Chairman of Florida Space Day and General Manager of Astrotech Space Operations. He says the Space Industry is a great way for the state to move onwards and upwards.

“We think that our goals and objectives are in line with the Governor’s to bring in business to our state high paying jobs and the aerospace industry has been contributing for years toward that.” Says White.

And it’s right up Lt. Governor’s Jennifer Carroll’s alley too. Carroll is the Chairwoman of the state-run organization promoting the Space Industry, Space Florida. She met with members of the Florida Space Day group Wednesday morning at the Capitol.

Shifting a few feet to the left, Trent Smith with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program says, they’re not so much apart of Florida Space Day, but rather thinks it’s a good time to showcase where the agency is and where it’s going.

“Well I don’t know about promoting it, but we’re here to really inform the public, staff, members, you know, what NASA’s doing.” Says Smith.

That’s including, but not limited to, the astronaut program, robotics like the Mars Curiosity Rover, and always developing new satellites and probes. And it’s not to say they’re distant from the private sector. With NASA’s shuttle program over, American astronauts travel on Russian rockets to reach space. Smith’s Commercial Crew Program wants to change that using American commercial rockets on American soil.

“We actually have three partners: SpaceX, they want to fly astronauts on their Falcon 9 rocket. And then Sierra Nevada Corporation, they have a Dreamchaser. We have Boeing with the CST100 Capsule and launch on an Atlas 5.” Says Smith.

But to do everything everyone wants to do require lots of manpower and even more brainpower. Both NASA and the Florida Space Day group made the case for STEM – that’s science, technology, engineering, and math – education useful to the Space Industry.

So on the same day NASA Astronaut Bob Cabana visited Cobb Middle School in Tallahassee, FL.

“Remember, when you leave here, go home, tell your mom and dad, tell all your friends NASA is doing great friends and I want to be a part of that NASA team because we need you.” Says Cabana.

He and other NASA employees delivered the message to the kids, what the groups at the Capitol are delivering to the politicians: They believe Space is the future and to get there, you need to start now.