ASTRA Sponsors Suitland High School’s Global NetGeneration of Youth at SOFIA Star Party

September 23, 2015
SOFIA Star Party

ASTRA sponsored Suitland High School’s Global NetGeneration of Youth Cyberjournalists, Mary Lane and Kelailah Wheelan, to capture the magic of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Stargazing Flight with the legendary actress, Nichelle Nichols (Lt./Commander Uhura of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek) at a 'STAR Party' conceived by Ivor Dawson Founder and President, The Traveling Space Museum and hosted at the Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Howard B. Owens Science Center Planetarium on September 15, 2015.

Prior to and during the star gazing flight, attendees were inspired by a robust evening program orchestrated by SHADES OF BLUE DC/MD/VA Chapter (SOBDMV) in collaboration with Science, Mathematics, Aerospace, Research and Technology (S.M.A.R.T.) and moderated by Dr. Ronnie Lowenstein, ASTRA’s Strategic Advisor and Futurist and Founder of the Global NetGeneration of Youth.

Prior to SOFIA’s evening launch from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, the Family Night STAR Party Program provided a variety of informative presentations that illuminated the power of the newest SOFIA telescope – the largest airborne observatory in the world that can reveal infrared observations in far away areas of the universe, its development through an international collaboration with NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR), and the socio-cultural impact of STAR Trek television show and the legacy of its Communication Officer, Lt. Uhura, on present day, real world communications. The NGY youth were able to interview, photograph, and videotape each of the presenters, including:

  1. Dr. Dominic Benford, NASA Goddard astrophysicist, who has led the development of scientific instruments for SOFIA for the past fifteen years;
  2. Admiral Arthur Johnson, currently CEO of Destiny Aviation Services, who provided an Aviation Overview of this project, and how NASA and the German Aerospace Center have jointly designed the reconfiguration of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet to accommodate the 44, 000 pound SOFIA telescope and serve as a platform for innovation;
  3. Dr. Valerie L. Thomas, President of SHADES OF BLUE DC/MD/VA Chapter, who shared Medical Officer Dr. Gary Reynolds’ insights regarding the impact of flight on the human body when traveling on an airborne observatory at 40,000 + feet altitude;
  4. Mr. Charles Acree, SHADES of BLUE VP for Technology who highlighted the historic role of legendary television actress Nichelle Nichols who portrayed Lt./Commander Uhura on the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek, and who was being joined on SOFIA stargazing flight by Traveling Space Museum Educator Ivor Dawson, as civilian passengers supporting critical science and education outreach;
  5. Ms. Patricia Seaton, PGCPS Planetarium Specialist at the Howard B. Owens Science Center, who provided edutainment about astronomy, the night sky and the star-birthing locations in the universe where the SOFIA telescope would be pointing
  6. Mr. Anthony James, S.M.AR.T. Board Member who spotlighted the value of STEM partnerships to inspire youth to aspire to be the next generation of pioneers using expertise in science, engineering, mathematics, aerospace, and technology to invent the future.

The culminating activity of the evening, coordinated by the PGCPS STEM Supervisor, Dr. Felicia Martin-Latief , was the use of social media of Twitter to link youth and adults live to Nichelle Nichols of SOFIA‘s star gazing flight. As Dr. Martin-Latief noted:

The use of social media has heightened the excitement of the event, sparking curiosity and wonderment. It also emphasizes the ever changing backdrop upon which authentic STEM/ STEAM learning experiences are crafted.”

Going forward, we are planning a series of Global NetGeneration of Youth Virtual Visits in collaboration with Mr. Ivor Dawson, the Space Policy Advisor to Ms Nichols and other inspiring role models in aviation and aerospace.

More Information:

Video: SOFIA Star Party

Video: Nichelle Nichols "Lt. Uhura" flies aboard SOFIA

Ivor Dawson's blog post about his experience on SOFIA Flight

Shades of Blue aims to recruit a new generation of aviators


SOFIA Science Center

Howard B. Owens Science Center Planetarium

View Photos from the event. Click on picture below.

Prince George’s County Public Schools’ Howard B. Owens Science Center.