The space shuttle Atlantis is scheduled for liftoff tonight at 6:38/Central time and one astronaut will have plenty of fans in Iowa watching his flight. Clayton Anderson got his master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University in 1983 and he’ll be the first Cyclone ever to reach orbit.
Kris Anderson, who’s not related, runs the space sciences program at the Science Center of Iowa, which is holding a Barbeque and Blastoff bash. The launch will be projected live on the planetarium’s 50-foot dome while the sound effects of the launch will be routed into the subwoofers “so when the shuttle blasts off, we really do get a realistic rumble there in the room.”
Anderson hopes the kids who watch, hear and feel tonight’s liftoff will get bitten by the space bug and consider careers in science. Anderson says there’s a big push for science, technology and engineering education so NASA hopes launches like this one will spur more young people to become a part of the space program. He says competition is pretty tough to make it into the astronaut program.
He says, “A lot of people just think of that aspect of it but there are mission controllers, there are engineers, there are people that build the spacecraft, there are computer programmers, so practically any kind of field you can imagine in the normal workforce, you could end up doing with NASA as well.” For more information about tonight’s Science Center 5-7 P.M. event in Des Moines, visit www.sciowa.org .