Friday, March 25, 2011

A Long Week in the INSGC Offices...

... but all's well that ends well.

This has been the kind of week that can leave a Space Grant Director (or any professor) worn out.  For most of the week, the INSGC staff and I have been working on the annual progress report that we need to send to NASA to highlight and summarize our Space Grant program activity.  Between budget calculations, accounting of staff expenses, and documenting project activities (with suitable quotes about how Space Grant changes lives and careers), we've spent maybe 60 person-hours this week on this report.  That seems appropriate, though--until we complete a report that communicates what we need to NASA Headquarters (and allows them to answer questions from the Administrator, or Congress, or the Office of Management and Budget), we're not really eligible for our next funding allocation.

In addition to the Progress Report, it's internship allocation time at the NASA Centers.  It's an interesting period of offers and counteroffers, requests and deferrals.  (Of course, it's even more exciting because no one in NASA has definite information about their budgets for employing summer interns yet.)  After several phone calls and reviews of our lists of applicants, we've started making a few tentative commitments of support.  I know from prior feedback (and my own experience as a summer faculty fellow at NASA Johnson Space Center), that every internship has the opportunity to be a life-changing experience.  In fact, one of the quotes included in our Progress Report was about one such student, Michael Zwach.  You can see for yourself what Mike is up to; I am grateful for his kind words about INSGC, but the motivation and commitment and intensity is all his.

That might seem like enough.  Like the late night infomercial, though, you know the next line: "But wait, there's more!"  I am part of a team working on a very unique and non-standard proposal to look at how to engage people (kids, adults, scientists, engineers, artists, writers, librarians, and so many others) in the examination and expansion of human creativity.  INSGC can serve a very important role in such an activity, since creativity and imagination are words so often linked to NASA and discussions of the space program.  This is something not just for Purdue, or for Indiana, but everywhere there are people who combine "Wouldn't it be great if..." with "How do I make that happen?".

Actually, two examples of that are some of my biggest sources of enjoyment and enthusiasm this week.  Once again, the astronaut hometowns of Crown Point and Indianapolis will be represented on a Space Shuttle flight--in fact, STS-135, the last Space Shuttle flight.  But no, it's not Jerry Ross or Dave Wolf on the crew.  Elementary, Middle, and High School students from Crown Point and Indianapolis have committed to partnerships in the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program, or SSEP, on the final Shuttle mission.  (The SSEP is a wonderful project from the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education.  I've already told you about how wonderful they are.)

I can't tell you how proud I am to be able to see Indiana's contributions to the space program, and to the inspiration and excitement it provides, to continue its legacy this way.  I invite you to follow the two sets of projects as they move forward towards launch--I know I will.

Avicenna Academy, Crown Point:  SSEP Blog--Avicenna's Stars Shoot for Space
George Washington Community School, Indianapolis:

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