Purdue alumni astronaut Commander Mark L. Polansky headlines Purdue Space Day

Mark Polansky Photo
Mark Polansky at Purdue Space Day
Purdue Space Day Photo
Purdue Space Day took place on the West Lafayette campus of Purdue University on Saturday November 8, 2008 with astronaut alumni Commander Mark L. Polansky as guest speaker.

Over 400 students in grades 3-8 listened to Commander Mark L. Polansky BSAAE '78; MSAAE '78 as he made the opening presentation of the 13th annual Purdue Space Day.  The day was run by over 150 Purdue students who came from 38 majors. Now in its 13th year, over 4,300 grade school students and over 1,300 Purdue students have participated in the program since its inception in 1996. Commander Polansky was then on hand during the day to interact with all ages of students and give them first hand information about what it is like to be an astronaut.

By attending PSD, students in grades three through eight have the opportunity to learn about astronautical engineering and space exploration on the West Lafayette, IN. campus of Purdue University and inspires the grade school students to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by using a space theme. 

Purdue University student volunteers gain valuable experience as teachers, role models and mentors, and through service learning they learn the inestimable value of reaching the wider community. Additionally, the professional development tasks require to plan and implement a successful PSD each year with taking a leadership position in managing a large project with interdisciplinary co-operation.

The school students participate in three hands-on age-appropriate STEM activities during the day. All activities are accompanied by lesson plans to facilitate the children’s understanding. PSD encourages the children to think about future careers in engineering and also lets the children become more familiar with a university campus as a place for them to ultimately come. 

Students in grades 3-8 had the opportunity to try out the following activities:

Grade 3-4
Deep Impact; Egg Drop; Straw Rockets

Grades 5-6
Satellite Launch; Solar Rovers; Water Rockets

Grades 7-8
First Robotics; Apollo 13; Geodesic Dome

Polansky joined NASA in August 1992, as an aerospace engineer and research pilot.  He was selected as an Astronaut Candidate in April 1996 and began training later that year. He has flown on STS-98 in February 2001 where the duration of the mission was 12 days, 21 hours and 20 minutes. His second flight was STS-116 in December 2006 where the mission duration was 12 days, 20 hours and 45 minutes. 

Polansky is assigned to command the crew of shuttle Endeavour for STS-127, ISS Assembly Mission 2J/A, which will deliver the Japanese-built Exposed Facility (JEM-EF) and Experiment Logistics Exposed Section (ELM-ES) to the International Space Station in spring 2009.  The facility will provide a type of "front porch" for experiments in the exposed environment, and a robotic arm that will be attached to the Kibo Pressurized Module and used to position experiments outside the station. 

Also on this mission will be fellow Purdue alum Dr. David Wolf BSEE'78. Wolf will be making his fourth spaceflight. He has flown on STS-58 in 1993. He served on a 128-day mission to the Russian space station MIR, launching aboard STS-86 in September 1997 and landing on STS-89 in January 1998. His third flight was on STS-112 in 2002. In addition to his bachelor's degree in electrical engineering, he also has a doctorate of medicine from Indiana University.

In addition to Commander Polansky attending Purdue Space Day, he also gave a free public presentation the evening before to a packed room in the Wetherill Laboratory of Chemistry on campus, thus demonstrating the nation’s great interest in the space program and the nation’s astronauts.

"I really had a wonderful time, and more importantly, it was quite impressive for me to watch the fantastic job done by all the students. It made me even more proud than I already am to be a part of Purdue." said Polansky at the end of the day. The PSD executive board led by AAE seniors Tim Duquette and Ian Meginnis were very appreciative of the time and effort taken by Commander Polansky and he gained a whole lot of new fans from all ages. 

Purdue Space Day is sponsored by the Indiana Space Grant Consortium and the School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Additional support was also received from United Technologies Corporation, Caterpillar, Purdue Engineering Student Council (PESC) Sylvan Learning Center and Wal-Mart.

Photo at left ~ Commander Polansky

Photo in middle ~ Commander Polansky talks to grade school students during the 13th annual Purdue Space Day

Photo at right ~ Grade school students prepare to launch water rockets

Related Link: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/johnson/news/releases/2008/H08-052.html