More than 1,000 Jenks students packed into the Jenks High School Performing Arts Center Thursday for a chance to speak with a NASA astronaut executing a mission in outer space.
Throughout the week, students from all across the Tulsa area have encountered demonstrations and speeches from former NASA employees discussing their past missions and work for the American space organization.
However, Jenks students received a special opportunity to speak with a NASA astronaut, Shane Kimbrough, who is currently serving as the head Commander of the International Space Station.
Nordam, the Oklahoma based aerospace company who helped sponsor the event, created Flight Night Space Week to help inspire local students undergoing Oklahoma's Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics programs.
Nordam Vice President of Culture and Communication, Bailey J.Siegfried, started Flight Night Space Week two years ago and says he wanted to reintroduce space to younger generations.
"I felt like today space isn't in our kids lives like it once was. The space race and walking on the moon, that inspired generations and we need to reinvigorate and re-energize generations that are going to be going out further than the moon," Siegfried said.
After speaking with Commander Kimbrough, students heard from former NASA pilot, Lt. Col Duane Carey, who shared the story of how he became apart of a team that performed missions in outer space.
Carey, who served in the U.S. military as a fighter pilot, captured the attention of students with his childhood story. Carey was raised by a single mother within the inner city of Minneapolis, MN and was not accepted into college until after turning 20-years-old.
Carey, who executed a handful of missions for NASA in space, says he travels all over the world to speak to students about his experiences working for NASA in order to help recruit a new generation of astronauts and engineers.
'No longer do we have a generation of kids that are going to do things because we tell them to do it, they're going to do it because they want to do it. It's on us to motivate them, to steer them in that right direction," Carey said.
By Friday, Flight Night Space Week will reach nearly 10,000 students in the Tulsa area and local organizations along with Nordam will have raised more than $500,000 since beginning the program.
Jenks Superintendent, Tracie Butterfield, says she jumped for a chance to work with Nordam and urges Tulsans to help Flight Night expand and learn more about STEM programs in Oklahoma.
"I just encourage everyone get involved and make opportunities like this available for our students and students across this state, " Butterfield said.
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