Touring space with those who’ve been there

Brenna with Bolden

Hi there! My name is Brenna and I’ve been a Space Grant scholar since July 2012. I’ve been recruited to be the first “guest blogger” for the WSGC’s new online newsletter, so here goes! The topic: some of my experiences as a student ambassador for the Museum of Flight…and why you should all go check out their new space exhibit ASAP.

As an ESS undergrad, my time is close to evenly divided between drawing elaborate geologic cross sections, daydreaming about human colonization of other star systems, and surreptitiously tasting minerals in Johnson 127 in an attempt to distinguish halite from calcite. Outside of school, though, I spend a fair amount of time at the Museum of Flight, which frequently collaborates with WSGC to promote space education.

I first got involved with the museum through a program called Washington Aerospace Scholars (WAS), a program for high school juniors that began at Johnson Space Center and expanded to Washington in 2007. Since then, I have become a WAS student ambassador and volunteer for the museum, a position which has given me a lot of great opportunities to meet interesting people and participate in fun events. Just this past September, I had the amazing experience of volunteering as a stage manager at the museum’s Wings of Heroes Gala — a black tie event celebrating fifty years of human spaceflight and attended by a number of my childhood heroes, among them Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon.

More recently, I had the opportunity to meet NASA administrator Charles Bolden when he visited the museum to see the new Charles Simonyi Space Gallery. General Bolden was extremely personable and down-to-earth. Prior to the tour, he joined museum staff for coffee and commended the MoF for its exemplary efforts to promote STEM education in Washington state. After our coffee chat, I helped to lead General Bolden on a circuit of the new exhibit — although his years of experience actually having trained in the full fuselage trainer for his four shuttle flights made him a supremely more knowledgeable tour guide than myself. He was joined in the trainer’s crew compartment by fellow astronaut Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, veteran of five shuttle flights and former CEO of the museum, where they reminisced on the training they had received in that very compartment in years past. Needless to say, I enjoyed the entire experience immensely and feel fortunate to have been invited along!

If you haven’t been to the new space gallery yet — GO! The whole museum is great, but the shuttle trainer is really worth seeing up close (although it should be noted that tours of the crew compartment are by reservation only. The cargo bay, however, is open to everyone, all the time!). If being a poor college student is holding you back — never fear! Admission is free from 5-9 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month (including this Thursday). Alternately, you can befriend me, and then nonchalantly suggest we visit the museum. That would also result in free admission.

Thanks for reading! ☺

Brenna Tuller-Ross is a junior in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences at the University of Washington. For more photos from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s visit to Seattle, see the Seattle PI story, NASA chief recalls astronaut days in shuttle trainer.


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