My contribution is the award-winning book of Marianne Dyson, "Space Station Science." It was published in 1999, but I bring it up today because the topic of the Space Station is again on the news. There are now six astronauts in the station,three Russians, two Americans and a Japanese, waiting for supplies from Earth, and the attempt to deliver them on August 24th has failed, the unmanned spacecraft crashed in Siberia with its 3 tons of supplies. On September 21 there will be another mission to resupply the station. Keep your eyes on the news to follow how this unfolds. Because the Shuttle program concluded on July 21, 2011, with its 135th mission, the Russian agency is now resupplying the station and transporting astronauts to and from it using the Soyuz rockets.
I knew more about the Space Station back when it was growing, especially thanks to Marianne's book. But time has passed and I have to read it again to remember the details of how astronauts live in it, what they do, and what risks they face, to really capture the importance of the current affairs of this amazing mega-piece of engeneering. Through its journey, the Space Station has brought together scientists and engineers of similar and different nations into a common goal, and spurred unprecedented technical and scientific contributions to medical, biological, and engeneering fields down on Earth. How long will the Station stay in orbit? Will astronauts be able to continue working on it? What's next?
I propose to teachers, librarians and parents (and all the people interested in current affairs), to check the news about the Space Station and the astronauts waiting for supplies (they are still well supplied for now after the last Shuttle mission) and encourage students to follow these events as well as to compare them with their daily lives. Down on Earth, if we run out of supplies, there is a grocery store not too far away, but in space.... And to complement these current affairs (see the news clips I have added above in links), I recommend to pick up "Space Station Science" and introduce it to the current generation of young readers who were too young to read it when it was released. Understanding science and engeneering is an elementary piece in the students' future. This is a perfect opportunity to link science, engineering and careers with the story of the astronauts today and with people of many nations who have worked on the space program. For the future, which is what students face, I suggest discussing in class the plans NASA has for the years to come. And if you would like to invite an amazingly qualified expert to talk about the latest in space, Marianne is available to speak at schools and other events. Just email her or give her a call and your audience will boost their vision of their future to infinity and beyond!