As NASA works to get back to the moon, the space agency needs more smart people to help get astronauts to Mars and beyond.
Educators were on Capitol Hill Tuesday to discuss with a Senate committee how they are training current students to become the future space workforce.
It comes down to promoting STEM initiatives, giving more students across the country the opportunity to become rocket scientists.
NASA just announced that three minority-serving universities in Alabama, Texas, and Virginia will receive more than a million dollars to help address some of its manufacturing needs.
“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” said astronaut Neil Armstrong.
Fifty years after the first man walked on the moon, the U.S. wants to cement its place in space with not only a station on the moon but by sending astronauts to Mars and beyond.
“None of these missions would have been possible without the support and partnership of America’s educational system,” said Sen. Roger Wicker (R) Mississippi.
Senator Wicker and the rest of a Senate committee heard from educators Tuesday about how current students will help accomplish these goals as future NASA scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.
“I can tell you from personal experience that nothing can hook a young college student into a NASA career faster than working on a real-world problem with NASA engineers,” said the University of Mississippi Vice Chancellor of Research, Dr. Josh Gladden.
High school teachers are taking the same approach.
“Who does not enjoy hands-on and minds-on activities?” asked Virginia high school physics teacher Shella Condino. “Or the adventure of putting theory into practice? Or bringing knowledge to life?”
Both Condino and Gladden worked on student projects that sent experiments to the International Space Station but they say opportunities like this depend on funding that’s often hard to get.
Senator Wicker says NASA’s next budget should include money that encourages high school students to pursue STEM careers and establish more research opportunities for college students, especially for women, minorities and those from rural areas.