STEM’s space programs land in LaTourette

By Jasmine Willett

DeKALB | STEM outreach blasted off Wednesday night with the first of its space events series, “Bon Voyage to the Space Shuttle.”

The presentation was led by Observatory Manager Matt Wiesner. The series was created to raise awareness of U.S. space shuttle programs as well as to inform visitors about the final Atlantis launch Friday.

“We have to think of this as a country, even if it is a small community who will think about everything on a national level,” Wiesner said. “We just need to be aware. In 2037, we were scheduled to land on mars, but it got canceled. Many people were disappointed about that.”

Not only did Wiesner present information about Atlantis and the last launch, but he also informed visitors about past space shuttles and the crew members who were a part of them. Wiesner shared photos, videos and gave a timeline with historical facts about space shuttles. There was also a group discussion about the future of NASA.

NIU graduate Raquel Brown, who attended the event, said she learned a lot.

“It was cool, very interesting,” Brown said. “I learned a lot of new things. I didn’t know that they were planning for a final flight.”

Wiesner also talked about the different tragedies the U.S. experienced from things going wrong with the space shuttles after launching, including the Challenger.

In his presentation, Wiesner said the Challenger broke apart after 73 seconds into flight. The entire space shuttle crashed into the ocean. Another failed flight was Columbia, which was destroyed at the end of its 2003 mission. After these tragedies, NASA found the problems that caused these tragedies and made corrections so that it would not happen again.

Sycamore resident Scott Heath attended the event with his wife Mindy and daughter Tiffany.

“The parts of the presentation that we saw were very interesting,” he said. “I learned a little bit from this. I did not know that they had a final shuttle. We wanted our daughter Tiffany to learn about this and be here to experience history.”

A cake shaped rocket and a trip to the observatory on the 9th floor of Davis Hall followed the presentation.

This was the first of four free family events sponsored by STEM.