Real-time question-and-answer session reinforces to young people that their future as next-gen innovators in space technology is well within their reach.
On July 28, over 100 students and their family members gathered at the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT) to participate in an engagement with Americans Megan McArthur and Shane Kimbrough and Frenchman Thomas Pesquet as the astronauts orbit the planet aboard the International Space Station.
During an approximately 15-minute live video feed, the three crewmembers responded in real time to prerecorded questions submitted by area students earlier in the month.
Down on Earth, those taking part in the event will include current and past cohorts of the WEX Foundation's Lunar Caves Analog Test Sites (LCATS) program — a three-year curriculum that engages students ages 12-18 across the San Antonio region in innovative STEM/STEAM enrichment activities based on space technology and exploration.
The special occasion was made possible thanks to a proposal submitted to NASA by The WEX Foundation. Each cycle, educational institutions and other organizations around the country apply for highly-coveted opportunities to have an exclusive link to the astronauts aboard the space station.
Following the 15-minute downlink, additional programming followed at SAMSAT as part of the WEX Foundation's daylong Space Fest 2021. Those proceedings included the following a keynote speech from NASA Flight Surgeon Dr. Josef Schmid, a panel featuring engineers from Boeing, a space entrepreneur workshop led by SAMSAT and a graduation ceremony for LCATS students.
Earlier this year, The WEX Foundation and affiliated entities XArc and Astroport consolidated their operations at SAMSAT. Here, they continue developing innovative educational programs and are working alongside various research partners in creating new technologies for space exploration and future lunar/Martian colonization efforts. Along the way, the space pioneers are aiming to raise San Antonio's global profile as a leading place with expertise in different space disciplines, especially building habitats, factories and other infrastructure that will be essential for the successful colonization and commercialization of extra-terrestrial realms.
Thanks in part to over $2 million in NASA funding since 2016, the WEX Foundation has worked with SAMSAT and area schools to engage students in projects that include high altitude weather balloon launches, model rocket design and the use of robotics and other technologies to advance exploration of the Moon through the LCATS program.
By early 2022, STEM-based activities developed by The WEX Foundation and SAMSAT will reach a whole new level when the Port and SAMSAT open the doors to the 130,000-square-foot Tech Port Center + Arena—the nation’s most integrated state-of-the-art innovation facility, which is currently under construction.
Equipped with a 2,500-seat technology arena, classrooms, an industry showroom, a prototyping lab and expanded spaces for educational activities launched by SAMSAT and its partners, the innovation center will significantly scale the Port’s driving Tech Port strategic blueprint: Build dynamic spaces and a strategic network of partners that helps connect people’s ambition to educational, career and entrepreneurial paths—enabling any person in the community who wishes to do so to participate in an exciting world of technological advancements today and in the decades ahead.
Architectural rendering of the exterior of the upcoming innovation center at the Port (above). Now under construction (below) and opening in early 2022. (Above: Courtesy image RVK Architects / Port San Antonio; below courtesy image Sundt Construction)