Space Day at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Space Day at the Udvar-Hazy Center

School children mingled with a U.S. senator, astronauts and a senior NASA official during last week's Space Day 2005 celebration at the National Air and Space Museum Annex in Chantilly.

More than 1,500 sixth-graders from across the U.S. came to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, last Thursday, May 5, to participate in dozens of educational activities and scientific experiments, meet the dignitaries, explore the wonders in the McDonnell Space Hangar and see all the cool aircraft on display.

Space Day is designed to encourage students to consider careers in space exploration as they study math, science, engineering and technology. Lockheed Martin Corp. sponsors this event, along with more than 70 partners and associates, including the museum and NASA.

The Jefferson Junior High School Choir from Washington, D.C., kicked off the festivities with a spirited performance. Then the National Air and Space Museum director, Jack Dailey — himself a pilot and a retired Marine Corps general — welcomed the crowd.

Bob Stevens, chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin, paid homage to former and current NASA astronauts, saying, "Space Day celebrates the extraordinary achievements of all these people who've made this day possible."

He then introduced former Sen. John Glenn, describing him as "the first American to orbit the Earth, co-chairman of Space Day and a true and great American hero." Glenn told the students that progress in the space program happened because "someone, someday, wondered if we could do something in a different way. Today, your future is yours to choose. If you set your mind to it, you can do whatever you want to do. Reach for the stars!"

Former astronaut Fred Gregory, now the deputy director of NASA, spoke about space exploration and what Mars is like. "We have some important challenges ahead of us as we expand the boundaries beyond our planet Earth," he said. "And many of you may take part in them."

Mark Polansky, commander of Space Shuttle Mission STS-116, also addressed the students. He and the five members of his flight crew participated in Space Day. And in a year, they'll fly on the Space Shuttle Discovery en route to assembling the space station from which two of these astronauts will take three space walks in six days.

"You're an inspiration to us," Polansky told the children. "It's great to see so many people as excited about space as we are. We stayed in school, studied math and science, had a dream and loved space. So don't be afraid to dream. Dream really big — do the best that you can."