“All Systems Go” For Student Rocketry Challenge

“All Systems Go” For Student Rocketry Challenge

Gretchen Cook-Anderson

More than 1,000 students, from 100 high schools in 36 states and Washington, are gathering in The Plains, Va., to compete in the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC).

The inaugural event, May 10, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT, at Great Meadows racetrack, offers student teams awards worth $59,000. Student teams must build a two-stage rocket that can fly to at least 1,500 feet, release a payload of two raw eggs, and parachute the eggs back to Earth unbroken to win the event.

The world’s largest model rocket contest is a national amateur competition for high school students. The contest resulted from a partnership between NASA and TARC sponsors, the Aerospace Industries Association and the National Association of Rocketry.

The event is being held in conjunction with the national yearlong Centennial of Flight celebration, which commemorates the Wright Brothers historic, first successful powered flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Dec. 17, 1903.

Speakers and participants at TARC include: NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Director of the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), Huntsville, Ala., Art Stephenson, and U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission Chairman and Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Washington, Director J.R. (Jack) Dailey.

NASA engineer and author Homer Hickam, whose book inspired the movie “October Sky,” and Jay Apt, a veteran NASA astronaut who flew four times as a Space Shuttle mission specialist, are also attending. Apt will be a range-safety officer for the competition.

An original field of entrants, nearly 900 high school teams and more than 9,000 students, was narrowed during regional fly-offs to the top 100 teams. The top 10 teams will be eligible to submit proposals to participate in the 2004 Student Launch Initiative (SLI) at the MSFC.

The SLI, now in its third year, is an educational program to motivate students toward careers in science, math and engineering. Under the guidance of MSFC engineers and mentors, SLI lets high school student teams experience hands-on, practical aerospace and engineering activities. The student teams build reusable launch vehicles, which carry a science experiment payload up to an altitude of one mile. Up to three proposals will be selected to participate in the SLI. Finalists will also be eligible to receive an invitation to attend Space Camp at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.

In July a faculty member from each of the top 25 TARC teams will be invited to the Initiative Workshop at MSFC. They will attend classes on student rocketry with NASA scientists and tour research facilities.

The futuristic Starship 2040 traveling exhibit, designed to share NASA’s vision of what future commercial space flight might be like, will be at the TARC and open to visitors. The exhibit showcases futuristic propulsion and space science technologies in development by NASA and its partners. The exhibit demonstrates the real-world challenges of achieving routine travel beyond Earth orbit, and portrays what space travel may be like in 2040.

For information about the Team America Rocket Challenge, the Student Launch Initiative or Starship 2040, on the Internet, visit: sli

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