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Virtual Field Trips Introduce Students, Teachers to Artemis

Close to 1,200 students and educators recently recevied an introduction to NASA’s Artemis Space Program. (Photo courtesy University of the Virgin Islands)

In the year when NASA plans to return astronauts to the moon, high-school students from the Virgin Islands took a “virtual field trip” designed to help them view their own horizons. The Global Outreach Program for V.I. and International Students invited a new generation to explore opportunities in space exploration.

Organizers from the University of the Virgin Islands College of Science and Mathematics worked with NASA to hold live and virtual sessions between Jan. 22-25. Close to 1,200 students and educators attended, including virtual participation from South Africa, the Philippines, Florida, and the D.C. International School.

Foremost in the videos, discussions and question-and-answer segments was talk of NASA’s Artemis program. NASA Education and Coordinator Meghan Epperly introduced viewers to the rocket propulsion system, the Orion Space Capsule which will serve as the vehicle allowing astronauts to orbit the moon and return to Earth.

That mission — scheduled for later in 2024 — follows the Artemis I test mission launched on Dec. 11, 2022. Participants also got an introduction to the crew leading the way back to the Moon — Commander Reid Wiseman, Pilot Victor Glover, and Mission Specialists Christina Koch and Jeremy Hansen. Together, they discussed the Artemis III mission planned for 2026 and Artemis IV, which involves construction of the Gateway Space Station, allowing astronauts to conduct longer exploration of the Moon’s surface.

Then came the long view. Within that view, she said, are career paths for those now attending high school. “We are trying to go to Mars, and that is much farther away than the Moon,” Epperly said. “ … the students watching the presentation today will be adults by the time opportunities at NASA present themselves.”

And there will be more career options than just serving as astronauts, she said. To illustrate the point, two Virgin Islanders were featured in the presentation. Rudolph King and Simmione Fullwood serve as NASA engineers with different specialties.

Students who want to explore their own possibilities were pointed toward an upcoming summer program. Samuel Garcia from NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement said the summer session “allows institutions to engage youth from underserved and underrepresented populations with hope that they will become role models and provide pathways of opportunities for other students.”

University officials also hope that exposure will encourage students to learn more about a new UVI degree program in physics. “The physics program is a new program at UVI. It’s bringing in a lot of students interested in astronomy and astrophysics,” said Dr. Stanley Latesky, chair of UVI’s Department of Physics and Chemical Sciences.

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