From Oklahoma to Mars, via STEM
INVEST IN STEM
Stephen Mc-Keever (top) and Ben Robinson:
Where will Oklahoma be when America is ready to blast off for Mars in 2030? We need to make the required investments now.
Posted: Friday, December 26, 2014 6:25 am
BY STEPHEN MCKEEVER AND BEN ROBINSON | 0 comments
from-oklahoma-to-mars-via- stem/article_f6cc08ab-44aa- 57a2-ac3c-e59ed86b2aca.html
What do NASA, the Orion spacecraft and Oklahoma have in common?
On Dec. 5, the Orion capsule blasted off from Cape Canaveral on top of a Delta-IV Heavy rocket. This was the first of several test flights, leading progressively to manned missions to Mars by 2030. Although a short flight of just 41/2 hours, this event signaled the most important space mission for NASA since the Shuttle’s first launch. Orion flew to 3,600 miles above the Earth, through the Van Allen radiation belts, with an eventual splashdown off the California coast.
The quest to put men and women on new worlds is one that has captured people’s imaginations even before the technology existed for space flight, but the success of that endeavor relies almost solely on our ability to attract interest and investment to the fields known collectively as STEM — or Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Aside from being a national imperative, however, STEM education is an imperative for the future of Oklahoma. It is our lifeblood.
Two former Oklahoma STEM students were fortunate enough to work on the Orion project, Drs. Razvan and Ramona Gaza. The Gazas, natives of Romania, but now U.S. citizens employed by Lockheed Martin, work on evaluating the amount of radiation to which astronauts will be exposed when travelling in the Orion. Razvan is the technical lead on the radiation protection program, and Ramona is contracted to NASA’s Space Radiation Analysis Group at the Johnson Space Center to analyze the amount of radiation received. The husband and wife duo both obtained their Ph.Ds from Oklahoma State University’s Department of Physics. The radiation monitors installed by Razvan will be analyzed by Ramona in a vital step towards understanding the levels of radiation safety required for the long mission to our nearest planet. Without this information, such exploration simply could not take place.
STEM education got the Gazas to where they are now, as part of a team of thousands of men and women supporting mankind’s exploration of worlds other than our own. They are modern equivalents of the shipwrights that supported the voyages of Sir Francis Drake and Christopher Columbus. They are examples of what can be achieved by young men and women in Oklahoma who choose STEM fields for their career path.
Where will Oklahoma be when America is ready to blast off for Mars in 2030? We need to make the required investments now. Our efforts in creating Oklahoma: A STEM State of Mind are gaining momentum. We now have had two STEM summits, led by Gov. Mary Fallin, and the Oklahoma Legislature has passed a bill creating STEM Communities, with close to a dozen communities already building education and industry STEM partnerships. Our Project Lead the Way pre-engineering programs are growing across the state, and we see more and more colleges and universities with increased enrollment in science and engineering programs. Hopefully, Orion and space exploration will create a national awakening today as Mercury did in our past. If it does, Oklahoma will be ready.
Stephen McKeever is Oklahoma secretary of science and technology. Ben Robinson is owner and president of Sentry One, LLC.
Information shared by Cara Cowan Watts – Thanks!