Seattle, WA – March 11, 2009
Leaders of the nonprofit Teachers in Space project applauded the upcoming flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery with educator astronauts Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold onboard.
“Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold are former science and math teachers recruited to join NASA as part of the agency’s Educator Astronaut program,” said Teachers in Space project manager Edward Wright. “NASA created the Educator Astronaut program to motivate students to study science, technology, engineering, and math. This flight marks the second time educator astronauts have flown, and the first time two Educator Astronauts have flown together. This mission shows that NASA is keeping its commitment to the Educator Astronauts and the educational community. This is particularly gratifying because, just a short time ago, there was some doubt that educator astronauts would get to fly.”
In August 2007, Barbara Morgan became the first educator astronaut to fly, but in a post-flight press conference then-NASA Administrator Mike Griffin went out of his way to play down the program. Griffin stated that Morgan was “not an educator astronaut” but “a regular Mission Specialist who once upon a time was a teacher. That’s not a denigration in my mind; it’s a tribute.”
Teachers in Space criticized Griffin’s statement and issued a press release calling on NASA to announce flight assignments for the three remaining educator astronauts. The press release resulted in a front-page story in Space News. Less than two months later, NASA responded, announcing the assignment of Joe Acaba and Ricky Arnold to Shuttle mission STS-119. In December of 2008, NASA announced that the third and final Educator Astronaut, Dottie Metcalf-Lindenburger, would be assigned to Shuttle mission STS-131, scheduled to fly in early 2010.
“NASA’s quick announcement represented a shining example of a government agency listening to public criticism and responding,” Wright said. “This is the way government ought to work. We encourage the NASA education offices to take full advantage of these educator astronaut flights. We also encourage NASA to find a way for the Educator Astronauts to return to the classroom, following their flights, so they can share their experiences directly with the next generation.”
Teachers in Space is a joint project of the Space Frontier Foundation and the United States Rocket Academy. Working with the companies that are now developing low-cost, reusable spacecraft, Teachers in Space wants to put a thousand astronaut teachers in American schools within the next decade. For more information about Teachers in Space, see www.TeachersInSpace.org.
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Press Release: TIS Calls for Educator Astronauts to Fly
Space News story on TIS