Saturday was an out-of-this-world experience for many Scouts participating in Girl Scout Day at the National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly.
THE MUSEUM partnered with Intelsat to make the day more exciting by setting up an Intelsat booth to teach the public more about satellite communication. More than 2,000 girl scouts attended, participating in 36 exhibits including hands-on activities and exhibits that emphasized women’s contributions to aerospace, science and aviation.
At the Intelsat booth, Girl Scouts and other children could visit three education stations, participate in a videoconference with Scouts in Atlanta via satellite, and use a satellite to make a telephone call anywhere in the world. After completing a series of activities, Girl Scouts received a participation badge made specifically for the event. Special stickers were given to other participants.
“Often satellites are thought of as exotic,” said the Vice President of Corporate Communications & Investor Relations of Intelsat, Dianne VanBeber. “But we like to point out that almost everyone has used satellites before they came here today.” The purpose of the Intelsat booth was to teach children what a satellite is, how they are used in real life, and how satellites work in space.
“A signal leaves the earth, goes all the way up into space until it reaches a satellite, and then the satellite sends a signal all the way back to earth again,” said an Intelsat employee. One Girl Scout troop easily grasped the concept by noticing a slight delay on the screen while participating in the videoconference with the Atlanta Girl Scout troops. “It takes about a quarter of a second for the signal to go one way,” said VanBeber. “That is why you can see a delay.”
“My favorite thing was that I got to call my mom using the satellite phone,” said 9-year-old Charlotte from Falls Church. “I really liked walking into the space shuttle, too.”
WHILE THE videoconference call was a hit, perhaps the most exciting moment came when veteran of four space flights, astronaut Dr. Thomas Jones, joined a troop of Girl Scouts on the videoconference and answered questions. “I went to space four different times and I went to the space station,” said Jones. “And three of the four times we had a female astronaut on our trip. For example, on Endeavor we had a female mission specialist, Dr. Linda Godwin.”
Jones believes Girl Scout Day was both important and beneficial for young girls. “Women are half of the talent pool. Yet they seem to be losing interest in science in middle and high school,” he said. “I know how capable and effective they are from my experience working with women in space.” While being an astronaut is obviously a challenging goal which requires extensive training and education, it is a real job that both boys and girls can do. “Anyone who has a dream can reach it,” says Jones.
Mother of 11-year-old Girl Scout, Courtney Olsen is pleased that times do change. “It’s very different from when I was a girl. But today being an astronaut isn’t out of range,” she says.
The leader of troop 6633 in Falls Church believes exposing girls to opportunities is what Girl Scouts is all about. “We take every opportunity we get to show them what is available and possible — these days, anything is,” she said.
As for a troop of 8- and 9-year-old Girl Scouts, they excitedly jumped up and down stating what they wanted to be when they grew up: An ice skater, nail painter, doctor, dolphin trainer, teacher, star namer; and finally there it was on the list — an astronaut!
Stacia who is an 8-year-old Brownie from Loudoun County summed up the day's events nicely. “My favorite part was learning how to control a robot with a keyboard,” she said. “But you know what was cool? Astronauts have badges for going into space and Girl Scouts have badges too!”