Brevard County High Schools’ Top Scholars Tour NASA’s Kennedy Space Center

By  //  December 5, 2017

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Former Space Shuttle Astronauts holds Q&A

Retitred aastronaut Tom Jones met with and spoke to top scholars from Brevard County public high schools at the NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on Nov. 13, 2017. (NASA image)

BREVARD COUNTY • KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FLORIDA — What do astronauts eat, and how do they eat in space? These and other questions were answered by retired astronaut Tom Jones, while top scholars from Brevard County public high schools ate lunch with him at the NASA Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

Jones treated the students to a special presentation during the “Lunch with an Astronaut” experience.

His humorous talk, interspersed with videos, focused on the evolution of space food from the early days of space exploration, including the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo programs, to space shuttle and International Space Station. He also talked about the challenges of transporting or growing food on long-duration missions such as to Mars.

Jones flew on the STS-59, STS-68, STS-80 and STS-98 missions aboard the space shuttle.

The lunch was part of the 2017-2018 Brevard Top Scholars event hosted by the NASA Education and Youth Engagement Division at Kennedy.

The students also received a behind-the-scenes tour of Kennedy facilities and participated in a roundtable discussion with NASA engineers, scientists and business experts at the Public Engagement Center.

“It is an honor to recognize outstanding seniors from across Brevard County,” said Denise Coleman, education project specialist. “Being a top scholar requires hard work and dedication. Events like this prove that the potential future workforce will be in great hands.”

Roundtable discussion subject-matter experts included Dr. Ali Shaykhian, relationships manager in the IT Technical Integration Office; Jose Nunez, chief of the Flight Technologies Branch; Anna Henderson, deputy chief financial officer for resources; Sandeep Wilkhu, program and projects assessments in the center director’s office; and Raewin Duvall, a current Pathways intern in Swamp Works.

Henderson advised the students to do an internship if they can and cautioned what they post on their social media sites, while Shaykhian said higher education is a lifelong investment. “Going to Mars and beyond is a fact–not fiction,” he said. “You are the people that will help get us there.”

Jose Nunez, chief of the Flight Technologies Branch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, talks with students from Brevard County public high schools during a roundtable discussion at the Public Engagement Center at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. (NASA/Bill White image)
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Athena Wrenn, a student at Merritt Island High School, wants to be a mechanical engineer. The first-time visitor to Kennedy thought the tour of Kennedy was “pretty cool,” and especially liked going inside the Vehicle Assembly Building.

Jaime Leffler, from Cocoa High School, enjoyed the day at the center. “I would like to be an astronaut and go to Mars,” she said.

Andrew Leonard, a student at West Shore High School, wants to major in finance, while Imani Jones, from Rockledge High School, has a plan to earn a business degree and then continue on to earn a degree to become an orthodontist.

The students received information about NASA’s internships and scholarships and a certificate of participation at the end of the day. From there, they were invited to tour the visitor complex and view the Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit.