Feb 2, 2012 9:19 AM by Sharlee Barriere
Space Center Houston---
The United States Rocket Academy made a surprise announcement at the Space Exploration Educators Conference, which began here today.
"Teachers in Space is now Citizens in Space," said Edward Wright, chairman of the United States Rocket Academy and project manager of Teachers in Space. "The focus of our program is growing beyond the public school system. We are creating a more inclusive program that will enable teachers, students, museum educators, and others to become citizen scientists and space explorers."
"Teachers in Space was created to enable large numbers of teachers to fly in space and return to the classroom. Working with the companies that are now developing reusable suborbital vehicles, we have made significant progress toward that goal. We began training our first Pathfinder astronaut candidates and acquired a contract for 10 space flights with one of the new suborbital companies - XCOR Aerospace. This is, to the best of our knowledge, the largest single bulk purchase of suborbital flights to date. We expect that it will be only the first of many such contracts.
"As we developed our astronaut training course, we had many requests to open the program to a wider audience. Requests from university students, aerospace museum directors, science-center educators, as well as private, religious, and home-school teachers.
"At the same time, we noticed the growing awareness of and interest in citizen science and participatory exploration. New technological developments are making it possible for private citizens to become involved in the scientific process. More and more, the professional scientific community is recognizing the importance of contributions made by these amateur scientists. Citizen scientists are discovering exoplanets and dinosaurs, monitoring climate and endangered species, and helping to map the human genome.
"The development of low-cost reusable suborbital spacecraft will be the next great enabler, allowing citizens to participate in space exploration and space science.
"Citizens have told us that education is not just a process that occurs within the public schools. Science fairs, hackerspaces, museums; private, religious, and home schools - all have a role to play. Today, we are listening to those citizens.
"We want to put a thousand astronaut teachers into American schools . We want to engage America's students and reach out to the public through museums, science centers, and other venues. We want to make space research and space exploration part of the mainstream, not treasures locked away in the ivory tower.
"When Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad was asked what it was like to fly in space, he said, 'Everyone should go!' We agree.
"In the next few months, we will announce our first citizen-science projects and a new Pathfinder program. We have three Pathfinder astronaut candidates in training right now and are looking to add many more.
"Space is not just the final frontier. It's the citizen-science frontier."