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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Space. The Passion and Focus of My Life

Hello Troops,

I remember Julie well. She is an exceptional student and lifetime fan of the Space Center. She wrote this essay for her Honor's Inquire Class and sent it along to me to share.

I want to thank Julie for her kind words, and praise her for her goals and dedication to the exploration of Space. Space is the final frontier. It is our future. It draws us to it. You feel its appeal every time you step outside and stare into the night sky wondering what's out there and if they know we are here.

The Space Center does its part using science and science fiction to inspire people to dream big then achieve. The future begins in our imaginations. Our goals is to get those dreams and ideas out of our minds and into the real world using education and good old hard work.

And Now Julie's Essay...

Space = The Passion and Focus of My Life

Julie Anna Sanchez

Ever enchanted by the beauty of the sky, my life has taught me to dream of beyond. From some of my earliest memories of watching the stars at night, to the time when I discovered my passion, to my quest to become a rocket scientist, I have focused myself upon the deep beauties and mysteries that space holds for me.

I can remember that as I was growing up, my parents would take me out of the city to look at the sky where there is little light pollution to block out the stars. I was enchanted by the sky even then, and on long trips in the car at night, I would squish my head as close to the window as possible in order to watch the sky as we drove. I would look for shooting stars, and I always made a wish on the first star that I saw each night.

In my early childhood, I was able to visit the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City. I loved watching the productions about the universe, and the museum upstairs was my favorite part of the experience because I was able to interact with science on a personal level. I have a natural ability to understand math and science. My parents tell me that I learned my multiplication tables when I was three years old; they were trying to teach them to my older brother and I just picked them up by watching them practice with him. Math and science were always my favorite subjects, and I couldn’t get enough of them.

In the fifth grade, my school was privileged to take a field trip to the Christa McAullife Space Education Center located in Pleasant Grove, Utah. The Space Center is a place where children are put into Star Trek type simulators and they set off on a “dangerous” mission. It is the most interactive learning environment I have ever seen; we learned about space, ethics, hard work, responsibility, current events, and teamwork all at once. I became enthralled with the Space Center and returned for summer camps and overnighters as often as time and money would allow. My experience as a 5th grade Damage Control Officer on the bridge of a starship was the turning point of my life. Before my visit to the space center, I was a nerdy child who liked math and science. After my visit to the space center, I was a gifted child whose life ambition was to do something in the space field. I had an outlet for all my hopes and dreams. I reached for the stars and the moon with the belief that one day I would touch them. I had found my passion.

Space rapidly became my focus, even approaching the level of an obsession. I watched, read, or viewed as much material as I could find about my chosen field as I possibly could. I watched Star Trek, read Isaac Asimov, researched space in Encyclopedias, and learned as much as I could about NASA. Many of my research papers for school had something to do with Space; I’ve written about Werner von Braun and the Russian Space Program. I got my own telescope for my birthday, and I started to find fascinating objects in the night sky.

I had begun researching space careers. Astronaut, astronomer, rocket scientist, and astrophysicist - I had so many choices. I gradually learned that some of these fields were not for me. I realized very soon into my explorations of space that I didn’t want to be an astronaut. However, I do want to build rockets, I want to work at mission control, and be in charge of an experiment or project in space. I want to be a part of the very large team of space explorers. Most people I meet never seem to understand this. When they learn of my love for all things in the heavens above, they immediately assume that my goal is to become an astronaut. When I tell them that I don’t actually want to be the one to journey into the beyond, but rather work on the project here below, they get confused or think that I’m a coward. People, it seems, can’t fathom the idea of a space nut who doesn’t want to be an astronaut. Yet, here I am. I dream of adventure, challenges, and marvels. For me, rocketry is the end, or beginning, of all my hopes and dreams.

I continued to attend the Space Center, finally achieving the rank of Fleet Admiral and becoming a member of the Order of the Federation. I also attended Astro Camp in Ogden, Utah and a telescope camp at the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, Utah where I assembled my own telescope (a six inch Dobsonian Orion Telescope). I was able to visit the Marshall Space and Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and I continued to visit the Clark Planetarium regularly. In all my visits and encounters with people who work with space, I became even more determined to become a rocket scientist myself.

During my secondary education, I took as many math and science classes as I possibly could. I attended the Math Circle at the University of Utah, and mathematics quickly became my best subject. For a brief time, I envisioned myself becoming a math teacher, but after a summer working at a space camp, I knew that my passion is space and that any job in a field not related to the celestial sphere would not be the best choice of career for me. I worked at an amazing place called iWorld’s Simulations, located in Murray, Utah. It was a spin off from the Space Center in Pleasant Grove. I worked closely with the children in the story telling process. The next summer, I attended the Summer Mathematics program for High School Students at the University of Utah. I learned about number theory and cryptography. The summer after I graduated from high school, I worked at Astro Camp. I had an amazing summer where I learned even more about space, because I was teaching it. We also visited many space/aerospace places such as Hill Air Force Base and ATK. We talked to astronauts, designed amusement parks, and ran simulators where the kids got to experience what it would be like to be an astronaut. Now heading into college, I know that Space is my future.

I know that I am going to touch the heavens one day. I want to work on the Constellation Program established by NASA. I want to design a rocket so powerful and awesome that when I look at it, I simply say, “Wow.” I want to be a part of an effort to colonize the moon, and eventually travel there myself to continue working on rocketry from a new perspective. My life focuses on space, and this highlight and obsession brings me great joy.

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