When NASA began 50 years ago, it was an agency with the mission to advance and communicate scientific knowledge and understanding of the solar system and the universe. NASA was the gateway to advancing human exploration and development of space.
When Columbus Magnet School began its Young Astronaut 24 hour simulated missions 13 years ago, the aim was to inspire young people with the mysteries beyond the nurturing boundaries of earth. A lot has transpired since those auspicious beginnings.
NASA has taken us to places unimaginable 50 years ago. Men have walked on the moon. Probes have left our solar system. A permanent space station orbits earth. Columbus astronauts have pushed the boundaries of exploration ever farther, with visits to Mars and near earth objects.
But, in this, the 50th anniversary of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, 15 Young Astronauts dedicate themselves to a goal closer to home. With this mission, our fifth graders seek to preserve the fragile beauty and balance of Earth itself. The earth has fed us, clothed us, and nurtured us. It is our collective mother. But we have been its prodigal children: stripping it of its resources to feed our insatiable appetite, while succeeding in soiling, desecrating, contaminating, and poisoning that which gives us life. This mission looks to the heavens for solace and a solution. The goal of Objective: Solar Hope is to deploy an experimental solar collector that will beam pure, direct, clean energy to earth, thus freeing us forever from the insidious march of global warming.
The earth is:
Gorgeous processions, songs of birds,
Sunrise, that fullest feeds and freshens most the soul,
The heaving sea, the waves upon the shore, the musical, strong waves,
The woods, the stalwart trees, the slender, tapering trees,
The flowers, the grass, the lilliput, countless armies of the grass,
The heat, the showers, the measureless pasturages,
The scenery of the snows, the winds’ free orchestra,
The stretching, light-hung roof of clouds-the clear cerulean, and the bulging, silvery fringes.
–Walt Whitman, “Leaves of Grass”
“Terra Nostra, Domus Nostra” – Our Earth, Our Home. Can we afford to ignore our home’s cry for help any longer?
Our fifth grade astronauts, indeed all of children and teachers of Columbus Magnet School, look forward to a world where the blue/green fragility of earth itself will be preserved, not as a testament to space technology, but as proof that humanity can discover the limits of the possible and reach for the indispensable. The future is something we have to earn, and with Objective: Solar Hope, we have gained a toehold to that future.
(We dedicate this mission to the memory of Richard Tiffen, parent coordinator of Operation NEAR in 2002. Richard Tiffen: parent, teacher, naturalist, friend.)