If you want, NASA will come to school for show and tell
DeLand, Fla. — ''Good morning, fellow astronauts here on spacecraft earth.''
With this greeting, aerospace education specialist Robert Wilson began a special hour-long spacemobile program for some 200 fifth and sixth graders here recently.
Designed for students in grades 5 through 12, the spacemobile exhibit contains large satellite photos of earth and the other planets, scale models of space hardware, films, slides, computers, and other props. Special attention is given to the space shuttle and how its use can benefit mankind. The program is a gift from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Combining a keen sense of humor with an ability to ask stimulating questions and involve the students in a number of simple experiments, Mr. Wilson demonstrated how the heat tiles on the space shuttle keep it from burning up.
We all watched, fascinated, as he asked a student to hold a tile while he used a torch set at 1,700-degree heat to make the center of the tile red hot. Touching the opposite side of the tile, the student said, ''It feels like it's at room temperature.'' Another student touched the side that had been red hot just 30 seconds before and said, ''It's only comfortably warm.''
Two other youngsters showed how it is possible to ''hear'' temperature changes using a computer and how to know if colors are bright or dark by listening to high and low computer sounds.
''How do astronauts eat in space?'' ''How do they sleep?'' ''Does time stop in space?'' and ''Has the Space Center or any astronauts ever sighted any UFOs?'' were some of the questions fired at Mr. Wilson during one of his classroom visits after the large group presentation was over.
He gave many examples of how space food has changed from strained baby food in tubes during the first Mercury flights to freeze-dried packs and now to zip-lock cans that can be heated in special pockets in desk size food trays.
As one of several NASA spacemobilers throughout the country, Mr. Wilson is hired under contract as an adjunct professor out of Oklahoma State University, which pays his salary.
Evaluating student reactions, the enthusiastic teacher remarked, ''Junior high students ask the most questions because they probably understand more. Fifth and sixth graders are more excitable, and high school students listen intently but prefer to ask questions privately rather than in front of their peers.''
He also explained the Lunar Sample Program where teachers have the opportunity to attend a workshop to qualify to handle moon rock samples. These samples are only available to such certified faculty because of the security risk involved.
Besides the spacemobile program, NASA Education Services offers a variety of materials, seminars, activities, and projects in many regions of the United States.
For example, in central Florida, Orange County officials are now working with representatives from the John F. Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, to plan a community involvement program for the spring of 1982. They hope to saturate the schools, PTAs, local business organizations, retirement homes - in fact, the entire spectrum of the local populace - with a two- to three-week aerospace program.
For information concerning NASA Education Services in other areas of the country, contact the NASA Headquarters Branch Office, Washington, D.C. 20546.