Past and Future of Space Flight Come Together on Space Day 2004

Press Release

Thursday, May 6, 2004 - 10:30am

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Kathleen Hanser, 202-633-2375,
Peter Golkin, 202-633-2374,
Peter Golkin, 202-633-2374,

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Space Day, the culmination of a year-long educational initiative for middle school students, took place Thursday, May 6, at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. The high point of the celebration was the introduction of NASA's new astronaut class.

With almost a 1,000 youngsters in attendance, Space Day began with an opening ceremony featuring Gen. John R. "Jack" Dailey, director of the National Air and Space Museum; Sean O'Keefe, administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and Space Day co-chairs Sen. John Glenn, and Vance Coffman, CEO of Lockheed Martin Corp. Each related how his own childhood dreams led to careers in aerospace.

"The museum is a perfect place to celebrate Space Day because historical artifacts such as the space shuttle Enterprise inspires youngsters to think about the future of space exploration and the many ways they can contribute to this legacy," Gen. Dailey said.

Space Day, established in 1997 by the Lockheed Martin Corporation, uses space-related activities to prepare young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Each member of the new astronaut class was introduced by chief astronaut Kent Rominger, assisted by astronauts George Zamka, Leland Melvin and Barbara Morgan.    
"This astronaut class represents the next generation of explorers," O'Keefe said. "It is a diverse group made up of pilots and engineers who will help us develop the next generation vehicle; scientists who will do research to help humans live and travel in space; and teachers to ensure that the next generation is ready for the challenges of exploration."

One of the primary activities is the Space Day Design Challenges. Developed by the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, the challenges encourage teams of students in grades 4-8 to utilize science and math concepts, initiate independent research and connect directly with experts in the field. This year's challenge choices were:

  • Space Trek - Create an electronic journal detailing a space expedition.
  • Galactic Gear - Develop a multipurpose tool that can be used to explore and/or survive in our solar system.
  • Extreme Explorer - Design a vehicle that can help explore (with or without people) a region of the solar system.

Winning students in the Space Day Design Challenges were honored at an awards ceremony the night before in the Udvar-Hazy Center IMAX Theater, and a short tape of the students receiving their awards was shown to the Space Day audience.

"As the baby boomer generation retires, the demand for young scientists and engineers is expected to increase at almost four times the rate of all other occupations," said Vance Coffman, CEO of Lockheed Martin Corporation and Space Day co-chair. "The Space Day initiative hopes to encourage the next generation to choose careers that will fill this rapidly declining, critical job pipeline."

In addition to the event at the Udvar-Hazy Center, thousands of students in all fifty states and Canada participated in local Space Day activities. More than 75 corporations, trade associations, federal agencies, youth organizations, and school districts participate as Space Day "partners" and "associates."

The theme of Space Day 2004 is Blazing Galactic Trails, in honor of the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. Hands-on activities through the day included conducting astronomy and microgravity experiments, moving a Mars Exploration Rover over a simulated Mars terrain, and building a Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird model.

For more information about Space Day, visit