Search Marshall

Go

Text Size

 
 
Link to Marshall Newsroom home page

For release: 05/05/04
Release #: 04-131  

'Show me' the Moon and Mars: Missouri's role in space exploration noted as National Space Day is observed May 6

National Space Day — May 6 — holds special significance for many Missourians. People in the "Show-Me State" have significantly impacted space exploration for more than 40 years, from playing a key role in the first U.S. manned space mission to helping to supply the next generation of Moon-focused engineers.


National Space Day — May 6 — holds special significance for many Missourians. People in the "Show-Me State" have significantly impacted space exploration for more than 40 years, from playing a key role in the first U.S. manned space mission to helping to supply the next generation of Moon-focused engineers.

Missourians who dream of fueling the next step — missions to other planets — may get their chance. In January 2004, the Vision for Space Exploration was announced, calling for humans to return to the Moon by 2020 as the launching point for missions beyond. Yet more than a decade before Neil Armstrong's 1969 historic first step on the Moon, Missourians helped launch Americans to space for the first time.

A Missouri company — St. Louis's McDonnell Aircraft, which later merged with the Boeing Company — built the Mercury space capsules for NASA. The first U.S. manned space program, Project Mercury began in 1958 and successfully completed six manned flights from 1961 to 1963.

"A goal of Space Day is to inspire the next generation of inventors, aviators and explorers," said David King, director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. " Missouri's rich history of aviation achievements offers a fine example of what amazing things can be accomplished when people set their sights skyward."

Over the years, several Missourians have ventured into space as astronauts. Today, three active NASA astronauts hail from Missouri — Dr. Linda Godwin, Dr. Janet Kavandi and Dr. Robert Behnken. Combined, Godwin and Kavandi have flown in space seven times, logging more than 71 days in space. Behnken, who joined the astronaut corps in 2000, is serving in technical assignments until assigned to a space flight.

Godwin was born in Cape Girardeau, and considers Jackson her hometown. She earned her bachelor's degree from Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau and master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Missouri in Columbia. A veteran of four space flights from 1991 to 2001, Godwin has logged more than 38 days in space.

Kavandi was born in Springfield, and considers Carthage her hometown. She earned her bachelor's degree from Missouri Southern State College in Joplin and master's from the University of Missouri in Rolla, later earning her doctorate from the University of Washington in Seattle. A three-flight veteran, Kavandi has logged more than 33 days in space.

Behnken, who was born in Creve Coeur, considers St. Ann his hometown. He earned bachelor's degrees in mechanical engineering and physics from Washington University in St. Louis, as well as master's and doctorate degrees in mechanical engineering from the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. Pending assignment to a space flight, he is supporting launch and landing operations at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida.

Some of tomorrow's aerospace engineers and space explorers also hail from Missouri. Its high school and college students have been strong contenders in NASA's "Great Moonbuggy Race" — a competition in which students from across the country create and race human-powered vehicles, similar to the first vehicles that roamed the lunar surface in the 1960s. Moonbuggy high school division champions hailed from Higginsville, Mo., in 2002 and 2003, and from Springfield, Mo., in 1999. Other teams from Missouri continue to be strong contenders in the event, held each spring in Huntsville.

Huntsville is home to NASA's Marshall Center — sponsor of Missouri's Educator Resource Center — a place that gives Missourians, as well as neighboring states, access to NASA expertise and educational materials in science, math and technology. The education center is on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.

NASA is one of more than 75 national Partner and Associate organizations that support the Space Day initiative, designed to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and math. The fifth annual tribute to aerospace exploration, this year's initiative is co-chaired by former NASA astronaut and former U.S. Sen. John Glenn of Ohio and Dr. Vance Coffman, chairman and chief executive officer of Lockheed Martin Corporation of Bethesda, Md., the founding sponsor of Space Day. Space Day events are held in all 50 U.S. states, throughout Canada and in countries around the world.

For more information:
New flagNews release


Contact
June Malone
Public Affairs Office
(256) 544-0034

Graphic for line

E-mail

Get releases sent directly to you!
Contact:
Betty Humphery

Graphic for line