As Harker Heights High School student Eleni Nasiotis prepares for her senior year, she may not have been to the moon and back, but she took a small step last week.
Nasiotis was one of a few select Texas students who spent June 15-20 at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center for NASA’s High School Aerospace Scholars.
“It was an interesting experience,” Nasiotis said. “I’m interested in space, science and engineering, but I learned a lot I didn’t know before.”
To qualify for the program, Nasiotis had to sign up for an eight-month online class her junior year, which gave her a science credit at the end.
The online course had 10 modules, which included about 80 pages of chapters to read, essays, discussion boards and designing a spacecraft, she said.
Her mother, Emy Nasiotis, said Eleni Nasiotis also had to have three recommendations from her school, a letter from her Texas state representative, good grades and write an essay to attend the weeklong experience.
Her week consisted of tours of the space center and hearing speeches from current and past NASA employees.
“We got to see areas that are normally not for public access,” Nasiotis said. “I got to see the historical and modern mission controls.”
Along with other high school students in the program, she heard from Gene Kranz, Apollo 13’s flight control director; Norm Chaffee, who worked on Apollo 11’s system; and astronaut Jerry Ross, who made seven space shuttle missions.
Participants also split into teams to plan a mission to Mars, she said.
The blue team planned the mission, the white team devised a plan to survive, the red team proposed how they’d get to Mars and the grey team was over incubation.
Nasiotis said she was on the red team, which designed a rocket and made sure all risks were accounted for.
Teams also built model rovers and made a presentation for NASA personnel, she said.
“Learning to work together was the most important thing,” Nasiotis said.
With the trip funded through a contact NASA has with the University of Oklahoma, both Nasiotis and her mother said it was the chance of a lifetime.
As she prepares for her senior year, Nasiotis said she knows she wants to go to college and is deciding whether she wants to focus on science or art.
“Robotics, artificial intelligence and biology are all interesting to me.”
High school juniors interested in signing up for next year’s program can go to http://has.aerospacescholars.org/apply.