On June 27th, 250 DC Metro scholars embarked on a field trip to The Air and Space Museum. Awaiting them was a live stream video call with Dr. Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor, a NASA astronaut currently aboard the International Space Station (ISS)! Serena began her journey to space at George Washington University where she received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering. After GWU, she received an M.D. from the University of Texas Health and Science Center and an M.P.H from University of Texas Medical Branch. Upon completing school in 2006, Serena began her career with Johnson Space Center as a Flight Surgeon supporting medical operations for the ISS crew members in Star City. She also served as the Deputy Crew Surgeon of STS-127 and the Deputy Lead for Orion-Medical Operations.
In 2009, Serena was selected as one of 14 members of the 20th astronaut candidacy class. The candidacy program is 2 extreme years of training and includes scientific and technical briefings, intensive instruction in space station systems, spacewalks, robotics, physiological training, T-38 flight training, and water and wilderness survival training. Serena successfully completed the candidacy training program in 2011. Her first mission with NASA was searching for meteorites as part of the ANSMET expedition in Antarctica. She then went on to pilot a Deep Worker 2000 Submersible as part of the NASA/NOAA NEEMO 16 underwater exploration mission. From there she participated as an aquanaut in the NEEMO 20 crew. In January 2018, Serena joined the Expedition 56 crew and departed for the International Space Station!
Thanks to NASA and The Air and Space Museum, our scholars had the honor to video chat in real time with Serena and learn about her work aboard the ISS.
During our video chat, our scholars asked thoughtful and intelligent questions that furthered their understanding of space, STEM, and life aboard the ISS. They were captivated by the way liquids stuck to surfaces in space and how the astronauts had to connect themselves to the spaceship at night while they were sleeping to prevent zero gravity from floating them around the spaceship.
More than just a day one event, this conversation impacted our scholars for life. One of our 6th-grade scholars envisioned his future in STEM, exclaiming “I want to learn how to 3D print things that can be used at the space station!” Other scholars excitedly proclaimed their desire to visit space and experience zero gravity.
Our Summer Academy field trips aim to provide enriching and educational experiences for our scholars to explore, imagine, and dream. We are immensely grateful to The Air and Space Museum, NASA, and Dr. Serena M. Auñón-Chancellor for this once in a lifetime experience.