One tried-and-true way to get kids excited about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields: spaceflight. From the Apollo program to the space shuttles to, now, privatized space travel and tourism, it’s shiny-penny inspiration amid algorithms and equations.
This year, as Virgin Galactic reaches up, it’s also reaching out to future astronauts, employees, and possible competitors. The spaceline continues rocket-powered flight tests of SpaceShipTwo (its third test dropped from mother ship WhiteKnightTwo and blasted to 71,000 feet) and is sponsoring this year’s Google Science Fair—an annual global competition designed to nurture the next generation of scientists and engineers, which drew entries from more than 120 countries last year.
Virgin Galactic sweetened a grand prize that includes a Galápagos cruise and a $50,000 scholarship with a private behind-the-scenes tour of its Spaceport America terminal, but perhaps more important, it offered the 13- to 18-year-old contestants a chance to pick some of its top employees’ brains during online video Q&As. Test pilot Michael “Sooch” Masucci, payload integration engineer Kyle Stephens, and liquid propulsion design engineer (aka rocket scientist) Kimberly Betker joined one recent session, where questions ranged from “What’s the ‘to-do list’ to get your job?” to “Why the new hybrid motor design for the spaceship?” to “What’s the exact chemical makeup of liquid rocket fuel?” From the looks of these and other queries streaming in, at this fair, the old baking-soda volcano isn’t going to cut it.
Virtuoso’s accredited space agents are the exclusive North American travel advisors for Virgin Galactic flights.
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life, May 2014.
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