Academy at Shawnee hosts 'Google Hangout' with Virgin Galactic

Academy at Shawnee hosts 'Google Hangout' with Virgin Galactic

Shawnee and other JCPS students listen to representatives from Virgin Galactic during a Google Hangout session.


by C.J. Daniels

Posted on December 3, 2013 at 11:47 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 1:12 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Students in Jefferson County and other districts across the nation participated in a unique opportunity introducing the next wave of space exploration.

The Academy at Shawnee was chosen as one of 5 schools across the nation to host a Google Hangout featuring future astronauts and representatives from Virgin Galactic.

The stream, broadcast worldwide, educated students on the history of the space exploration created by Virgin Group creator Sir Richard Branson and to learn more about ending the exclusive nature of individuals traveling in space.

“As of now, only 542 people have been to space. Virgin Galactic’s goal is to make that 5 million or 500 million,” Will Pomerantz, Vice Presidents of Special Projects said. “That’s not going to happen if space missions are so rare.”

The meeting was the first of its kind popular Challenger Learning Center. The center aims to generate buzz not only for their program, but for the aviation magnet at Shawnee as a whole.

Officials discussed their space centers and also introduced students to various spaceship prototypes that will possibly transport groups of people in space.

Students also learned about how and why experiments are done and even discussed how weight and height plays a role in zero gravity for extended periods. They say in order to fully understand how growth works, kids should be allowed the opportunity to travel in space.

Current propulsion design engineer and recent college graduate Marissa Good described her blossoming career and her advice to students looking to get their start in the aeronautics industry.

“I played with Lego's all the time as a kid, it was my favorite. Keep doing that. Keep learning how to build things and keep tinkering with those if you want to be a great engineer someday,” she said.

Good adds that students should continue to study math and science because it helped her in building rocket engines as well as testing them in the field.

Virgin Galactic also touched on the topic of the lack of women in space for the aspiring girls in the audience who hope to achieve the feat someday. They say only 10 percent of women have been in space since 1963.

“There’s a lot of demand for women to go in science and engineering and into space. 57 women of the 542 have went into space and we’re set to double that number with just the Virgin Galactic female astronauts,” future astronaut Loretta Whitesides said.

Meyzeek Middle School 6th grade student Vaitheesh Jaganathan says the encouragement will help kids get to their achievement in life.

“Not many people in their lifetime would go to space but since this is a commercial thing this will help people go to space no matter how much money they have,” he said. “I feel like this will help kids be encouraged in academics so they can get to their achievement.”

Jaganathan believes that space exploration is important for survival and the need is there for a new generation.

The future astronauts also explained to the attentive students that having jitters is natural when trying something new for the first time.

“Anytime you do something new it’s scary. I had the opportunity to dive at the bottom of the ocean,” Whitesides said. “When you do something for the first time, it’s terrifying.”

As many of the children watching in the audience, the future astronauts say their upcoming experience is a dream come true.

Students from Albuquerque, Chattanooga, University of Tennessee and the Columbia Memorial Space Center also participated in the chat.

The Academy at Shawnee was chosen as the 2014 site for the Convention for Challengers Centers Worldwide. Representatives from the school hope to get Virgin Galactic on board for this exciting opportunity.

To learn more about Virgin Galactic, click here.

To learn more about the Academy @ Shawnee's Challenger Learning Program click here.