The astronauts will arrive tomorrow morning (Wednesday, April 10) and participate in a round table discussion "Building Educational Partnerships for the 21st Century" with business and educational leaders. Sacco commented that this discussion will continue to build on the theme of USML-2, by showing that institutions of higher education, industry and the government can work together to produce world class technology.
There will also be a presentation for the WPI community at 11:30 in the morning, which students are encouraged to attend. "Countdown to Tomorrow" will be about what it is like to live and work in space, and the kind of science which was done on the mission. The talk will also include the educational downlink, which allowed the shuttle crew to conduct interactive science lessons with four high schools (including Worcester's South High School) and be viewed in 40,000 classrooms nationwide over the Channel One network. The presentation begins promptly at 11:30, so everyone is asked to arrive a bit early.
The crew of USML-2 figured that exciting teachers and students was a major part of their mission. They wanted to show that science can be fun and they walked out to the shuttle with their hats on backwards to demonstrate that "science is not for 'geeks'." According to Sacco, USML-2 showed that this can be done if the will and desire exists and he hopes that this will and desire can be found at WPI.
Senator Kennedy, along with Governor Weld and Senator Kerry are strong believers in the need for government, industry, and educational institutions to form partnerships to maintain competitiveness. Kennedy's willingness to participate in the program, especially in the roundtable discussion, show strong support for this type of cooperative venture.
Professor Sacco helped to organize the morning presentation as part of his gift to the community for all of its support of him and his endeavors. He also arranged for a question and answer session in Harrington, where selected high school students will also be present. This is another part of the attempt "to motivate the next generation of Einsteins and Goddards" says Sacco. The future competitiveness of the United States will depend on whether educators today can stimulate their interest in science, mathematics and engineering. By presenting it at a personal and interesting level, through programs like this one, this can be done most effectively.
The day looks to be a big celebration of the future and the potentials that future research and young scientists and engineers hold. It also has the potential for WPI to lend its support to the development of projects that could lead to a leadership role in the years to come. According to Sacco "This presents a chance to become a major player, there is a lot of work that would need to be done; faculty and student support would be important. . .but this is a chance we can't afford to miss."
Again, students are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to talk with an entire space shuttle crew (Commander Kenneth Bowersox, Pilot Kent Rominger, Mission Specialists Catherine Coleman, Michael Lopez-Alegria, Payload Commander Kathryn Thornton and Payload Specialists Fred Leslie and Albert Sacco) and, quite possibly, shake their hands. Tomorrow promises to be the celebration of one of the most successful missions in NASA history, where experiments were conducted in: astroculture, crystal growth, fluid mechanics and combustion sciences among other disciplines. President Parrish feels that the event "will provide an opportunity to highlight the important contributions Massachusetts, with its wealth of educational resources, its technological know-how, and its industrial might, has made and continues to make to the welfare of the nation."
Professor Sacco mentioned "I'm hoping this is something to remember for the rest of our lives. . .this is quite a compliment to WPI to be allowed the entire crew to visit."