NORWALK, Conn. -- The Young Astronauts at Columbus Magnet School in Norwalk completed the program's 19th annual mission with a simulated space shuttle landing Friday, May 9.
The mission was the culmination of a year of hard work for the fifth-graders in the program. The Young Astronauts program is an after-school activity that uses space travel to teach kids about scientific inquiry. Throughout the year the students study aerodynamics, engineering, robotics, navigation and zero-gravity training. The program is capped off with a simulated shuttle launch and landing.
The mission this year was christened Terra Nova, or New World. The students launched their simulated space flight Thursday, May 8, and engaged in a 24-hour mission that included a simulated moon rover and lunar walk. They touched down Friday for a celebration with parents, teachers and local officials.
The shuttle crew consisted of five students -- commander Sofia Tsiropoulos, pilot Lomorris House, mission specialists Jessica Schweizer and Rachel Oberst, and payload specialist Wyatt Glenn. Their progress was monitored by Mission Control, which consisted of flight director Graham Miller, program manager Ella Valiante, public affairs officer Katie Morris, capsule commincator Rachel Lasky, attitude control systems manager Bismaad Gulati, surgeon Eyesly Zuniga, guidance officer Narje Phipps, EECOM Rebecca Keyes and flight dynamics/weather officer Jason Linsday.
Commander in Chief Andy Pearce, a fourth-grade teacher at Columbus, became emotional as he talked about the dedication the students put into their project.
"It's been a privilege and an honor to work with them, these are the greatest kids I've ever been with, and I think everybody should be very proud," Pearce said.
Arthur Perschino started the Young Astronauts program at Columbus and said that many alumni of the program have gone on to successful careers in teaching and science, including one who works as an aerospace engineer for NASA.
"The mission's not over," Perschino told the students. "You have a mission ahead of you. The world needs people like you, the world of science needs people like you. I know that as these students have made contributions, you too will make a contribution for the future of the children of America."
Following the landing, the students spoke about their experiences and what they learned from the program.
"After training for eight months, we all realize that Terra Nova was not just a mission. It was our way of life from October," Miller said.