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Wed, Feb 11, 2004

Introductory Space Ed Program Challenges Students

Program Founded By Former Astronaut

The heightened awareness of two successful Mars probes and a new commitment to space exploration have filtered down to the classroom.

The Mars success and confidence in new space initiatives have caused a spike in activity at the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI). The institute, based at The Kennedy Space Center, provides the background in space education for all ages, says Dr. Sam Durrance a former astronaut and Founder-President of FSRI.

"We're working with K-12 schools, home-schoolers, community colleges and universities on a regular basis to integrate our web-based programs into their curricula," said Durrance, "The Mars rovers have expanded the demand."

A private/public partnership,the Florida Space Research Institute was established by the Florida's Governor Jeb Bush and the Legislature to promote collaboration among the state's academic institutions, space-related companies, and federal space agencies to support nationwide space-related education, training, research and technology development.

"During the first week of classes this semester, I had students in our new aerospace sciences class bring me homework assignments that weren't due for another week," says Captain Dick Petrucci USN (ret.) a teacher at Sarasota Military Academy. "One student was bragging that now he knew his weight on Mars, adjusted for gravity."

Capt. Petrucci has enrolled his class in the FSRI program maintained by the Florida Space Research Institute (FSRI) headquartered at Kennedy Space Center. Other science teachers are seeing the same reaction.

Mars has also piqued the interest of the Civil Air Patrol, which is implementing the same program for its cadet "Squadrons of Excellence" across the United States.

"We want to stay at the cutting edge of educational opportunities," said Lt. Col. John Lynn, Director of Aerospace Education for CAP's Florida Wing. "Since the program is web-based, our cadets can take the training any time their schedule allows, and they have the option to get high school credit if they wish."



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