Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Astronut" Brett at NASA for Final Shuttle Launch

The Astronuts Kids Space Club is only a little over a year old, but eight year old "astronaut commander" Brett Bielecki has already received an invitation from active duty NASA astronaut and Associate Director of the NASA office of Education, Leland Melvin to be a guest of the NASA Office of Education for the final launch of the space shuttle Atlantis on July 8th, 2011.
Brett and Ray Bielecki.
The invitation also covers Brett's father Ray, who spends his days working at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Toronto HQ and his evenings and weekends helping his son set up the monthly informational and educational "missions" for approximately fifteen other boys and girls to learn about space, rockets, astronomy and science.

Skype guests and in-person presenters to the group have included CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe, artist and puppeteer Frank Meschkuleit, Irene Efston (the president of the Efston Science Superstore), Colin Dow (the president of Sigma Rockets), Francois Van Heerden (an amateur astronomer from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada), Ken Schellenberg (the president of AntiGravity Research Corporation, which builds water powered rockets), Alan Nursall (who reports on science for the Discovery Channel), Bob McDonald (the host of the CBC program “Quirks and Quarks"), Paul Delaney (an astronomy professor at York University), Julie Tomme, (from the Royal Ontario Museum), Kevin Shortt (the president of the Canadian Space Society), Suzanne Martini (the store manger of Spectrum Educational) and quite a few others.

The group has also arranged field trips to the Ontario Science Centre, the Star Symposium at York University, the University of Toronto Institute of Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) and York University Observatory.

Leyland Melvin initially learned about the Astronut kids through an invitation to present via skype during club Mission #13, which was held on May 22nd, 2011. Some of the highlights from that mission are included in the short video above.

According to Ray Bielecki:
Every time we do this, one or two great things happen that keep us motivated and enthused and looking forward to the next mission.

Sometimes it's as simple as the positive feedback we get from from our astronuts and their parents. But we also get lots of feedback from the educators and scientists we've invited who support us and who follow-up on our invitations with further suggestions and additional invitations to educational events and things we wouldn't have known about without an active interest in wanting to do this.
These invitations have included the already discussed trip to view the final shuttle launch and an offer to attend the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) 2011 Space Educators Conference, being held from August 9th - 11th at the John H. Chapman Space Centre in Longueuil, Quebec.

The Astronut kids have also developed partnerships with educational organizations such as the Federation of Galaxy Explorers (essentially a US based, nation-wide after-school program focused on space exploration) which is in midst of absorbing membership from the now defunct Young Astronauts Council (which was created during the Reagon administration).

A photo of Brett's grandfather Zygment Bielecki, working at Spar Aerospace on the CanadArm in the 1970's.
"Brett is a lot like his grandfather with his fascination for exploration, space, engineering, gadgets and electronics" states Ray Bielecki. "It's extremely wonderful to have the chance to share this portion of his life with him and to do some good for others as well."

The final  flight of the space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for July 8th. The Astronut Kids Space Club is recruiting new members over the summer and expects to undertake it's next mission in the fall of 2011.

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