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No Space Flight Required: Panel Describes Broad Spectrum of Space Careers to Middle-Schoolers

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A panel of scientists working in space science and on space missions described their careers
to students visiting AAAS. [Credit: AAAS/Carla Schaffer]


Almost everyone has at least once dreamed of being an astronaut, but the odds of actually becoming one are pretty slim. More than 6,300 individuals applied to become NASA astronauts last year, and the agency will choose just nine to 15 of them. Robots like the Spirit and Odyssey rovers that have been exploring Mars can also do a lot of important jobs in space.

But, there are many other careers that kids who love outer space should also consider, as a panel of scientists told over 150 middle-school students visiting AAAS on 23 May. Four experts described their careers and how they became space scientists, and offered advice to the students.

The event was held in association with the current “Planetfall” exhibit by Michael Benson at the AAAS art gallery, and organized by the AAAS Directorate for Education and Human Resources Programs, with support from the Verizon Foundation.

Teachers and students were also invited to participate remotely via a live-streamed webcast The panelists were as follows.

María José Viñas: María José is a science writer and outreach coordinator at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, covering Earth science. Her stories focus on advancements in the study of the planet’s frozen regions (known as the cryosphere) and the physical properties of the oceans.

Susan Wolfinbarger: Susan is a Project Director for the AAAS Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights Project. She uses satellite imaging of earth to document human rights abuses.

David Grinspoon: David is currently Astrobiology Chair at the Library of Congress, on leave from his position as curator of astrobiology at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and adjunct professor at the University of Colorado. He is a widely published writer, and currently serves on the Science Team for the Curiosity Rover mission to Mars.

Marco Midón: A former AAAS Entry Point! ACCESS fellow, Marco is an electronics engineer specializing in communications technology and oversees NASA’s ground stations all over the world (including the one in Antarctica).