The Young Astronauts Program

Thursday January 28, 2016

•  Challenger •  science policy •  space policy •  space shuttle • 

Thirty years ago this morning, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off. I was in kindergarten at Horace Mann. My teacher was Mrs. Mitman, and I hope I spelled that correctly. She loved the space program and had volunteered for the Teachers in Space program.

After Challenger, she designed a curriculum for us, age appropriate, where she used masking tape to mark off a space in the classroom. We had a mockup of the shuttle orbiter, again age appropriate. But it was sized correctly. And every day for two weeks we would have tasks to accomplish in the shuttle as part of our activities.

I stayed at Horace Mann for the next five years until leaving the fifth grade. During that time, we had an after school program once a week called the Young Astronauts. The program was established by Reagan in 1984, with chapters at schools across the country. It included educational material, demonstrations, and projects showing space science and encouraging kids to become astronauts.

Young astronauts no longer seems to exist. The national council website is nonexistent and the Wikipedia page discussed the program in the past tense. This was a great program and someone should bring it back.

Image by NASA.