News Releases

Alaska Students to Get Taste of Space Exploration
Jonas Dino
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif.
Phone: 650/604-5612 or 650/207-3280

Note to Editors: 04-93AR

Students in the Whittier Community School, Whittier, Alaska, will learn first-hand from Alaska native Gwendolyn Sykes, NASA's chief financial officer, and astronaut Rex Walheim about the Vision for Space Exploration and how they can be an integral part of making it a reality. The event will be broadcast live to other schools in the Chugach School District, Anchorage, Alaska. The theme of the Oct. 11 visit with the next generation of explorers is 'There is a Place for Me at NASA.' News media representatives are invited to cover the event.

Date: Monday, Oct. 11, 2004
10:15 a.m. AKDT, Student Science Activities
12:00 p.m. AKDT, Lunch
1:00 p.m. AKDT, NASA Explorer Schools Presentation
2:50 p.m. AKDT, Media Opportunity
Who: NASA Chief Financial Officer Gwendolyn Sykes and astronaut Rex Walheim
Where: Whittier Community School, Portage Street, Whittier, Alaska

"NASA has undertaken some of the most challenging endeavors ever attempted by humankind. NASA's new space exploration vision continues that legacy, but in order for that legacy to persevere after our lifetime, we must inspire the next generation and teach our young people the benefits of pursuing careers in math and science so they can carry on that legacy," said Gwendolyn Sykes, NASA's chief financial officer. "NASA is highly committed to engaging students all over the country to not only hold on to our space exploration goal, but to achieve it."

The NASA Explorer School program provides opportunities for schools, administrators, students and their families to partner with NASA to improve student learning; to participate in authentic experiences with NASA science and technology; to apply NASA science, mathematics and technology knowledge to real-world issues and problems; and to participate in special events and other opportunities.

"Chugach School District is incredibly excited to be involved with the NASA Explorer School program," said Doug Penn, principal at Whittier Community School. "As a small rural school district, collaboration with experts in the field is integral to the success of our students. This partnership will have huge impacts on student engagement and achievement across our district and we are looking forward to integrating NASA's rich learning resources into our science, math and technology standards," he added.

Sykes is NASA's chief financial officer, responsible for ensuring the financial health of the agency. She joined NASA in November 2002 after a successful career in the Department of Defense (DOD), Washington, where she streamlined financial reporting procedures between the DOD, Department of the Treasury and the Office of Management and Budget. She has served as a legislative assistant to Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), where she coordinated activities to protect Alaska's vital fishery industry after the Valdez oil spill.

A native of Alaska, Sykes is thrilled to be coming home to share her NASA experience with Alaskans. She is from Anchorage, where her parents, Bill and Sandra, still reside and where she grew up with older sister Hisa and brothers Kenneth and Rashid Sykes. Sykes graduated from East Anchorage High School. She earned her bachelors degree in accounting from the Catholic University of America, and a master's degree in public administration from the American University, both located in Washington, while working for Sen. Stevens. In November 2003, the United States Senate confirmed Sykes as NASA's chief financial officer.

Astronaut Rex Walheim, a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force (USAF), was selected in 1996 to join the astronaut corps as a mission specialist. Walheim served on STS-110 space shuttle Atlantis' extravehicular activity (EVA) crew that installed the S-Zero truss on the International Space Station in 2002. Walheim has logged more than 259 hours in space, including more than 14 EVA hours.

Walheim graduated from the University of California at Berkley in 1984 with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and was named the distinguished graduate in his Reserve Officers Training Corps class. At the USAF Test Pilot School, he again honored as the distinguished graduate and was named top flight test engineer. He has received numerous USAF service awards, including two Air Force commendation medals and an aerial achievement medal.

News media interested in attending the NASA Explorer School visit or interviewing Sykes and Walheim in conjunction with their visit to Whittier Community School should contact Jonas Dino of NASA Ames at 650/207-3280 by 3:00 p.m. PDT, Sunday, Oct. 10. All news media representatives will be required to sign in at the school's main office prior to entering the campus.

For information about the NASA Explorer Schools Program, visit:

For more information about the Vision for Space Exploration, go to:

For information about NASA, visit: