Tag Archives: NASA

Briarwood teacher to fly with NASA

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com



A Briarwood teacher is about to get a closer look at the final frontier.

Melissa Aguirre of J.H.S. 217 will take flight as part of a NASA program committed to exposing educators to the scientific research process.

The Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program started as a pilot program in 2011 and flies a group of 28 educators on two 10-hour overnight sessions to observe space through the largest airborne telescope.

Aguirre, a Queens native, was chosen for the highly selective program after a rigorous application process, which included a proposal to describe how she would use her experience to educate students in her home district.

Though Aguirre’s background is in history and English as a second language, the program accepts educators from all backgrounds. Aguirre co-founded a charter school in Washington, D.C., called the Latin American Youth Center Career Academy, which prepares returning students ages 16 to 24 to have careers as medical assistants and IT technicians.

Melissa Aguirre 2 (1)

“I was working at a school that has a STEM focus,” Aguirre said. “I really believe that all of us needed to show that interest and that was the primary reason I applied. How do I get young folks interested in these fields, especially women of color … who were the majority of the students I was working with, how do I get them involved in the field when we as educators aren’t involved as well?”

SOFIA’s Airborne Astronomy Ambassadors program was conceived after published research proved that educators who participate in these programs stay in the teaching profession and inspire students to engage with the sciences, according to Director of Education and Public Outreach Dana Backman.

“We’re operating based on published research that educators who get this kind of experience, exposure to science as it’s really done, they’re motivated to stay in the teaching profession because overturn of the teaching profession is a huge problem, especially in the sciences,” Backman said.

Educators selected for the program, which have included museum dossiers and planetarium directors, also have to take a four-month astronomy course from Montana State University before stepping into the plane.

“This course is very challenging but it’s compelling me to think about how I teach,” Aguirre said. “I’m having some of the similar struggles that many of my students have…but then I need to rethink how am I breaking this down for my students and is this working for me now that I am a student as well.”

SOFIA, a Boeing 747SP aircraft, is equipped with a 100-inch, 17-ton telescope and other instruments that allow scientists to gain a deeper understanding of a number of topics including the formation of stars and planets, the Milky Way, planetary science and more.

While on the plane, educators interact with astronomers, airplane technicians, software engineers, bookkeepers and other staff. Backman said this process allows educators to communicate to students that a Ph.D. in astronomy is not necessary to work in and engage with the sciences.

Aguirre is excited to show her students what she has learned through the program and will work with them to discover what they want to learn.

“There will be opportunities to infuse the curriculum with these resources and also develop after-school opportunities for students who are interested in them,” Aguirre said. She also hopes to inspire “students, especially girls who may not see these careers as possibilities, to see that they are possibilities.”


Queens’ Morning Roundup

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

morning roundup


Friday: A mix of clouds and sun during the morning will give way to cloudy skies this afternoon. High 58. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph. Friday night: Cloudy with rain developing after midnight. Low 48. Winds ESE at 10 to 15 mph. Rainfall around a half an inch.


Queens-based Titan Theater Company concludes its critically acclaimed, award-winning second season with its take on Shakespeare’s intimate family drama about an aging king and his three daughters. April 25–May 11 at the Queens Theatre. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Thug gets 54 years to life after brutally stabbing 3 cops

A remorseless Queens man who “played” mental illness as a defense for repeatedly stabbing three NYPD officers — paralyzing one cop and taking out his eye in the attack — was hit with 54 years to life in prison Thursday as prosecutors played a call he made the day after his conviction in which the only sorrow he expressed was that he had not taken the cop’s other eye. Read more: New York Post

Carriage horse accident adds heat to debate

Protesters rallied against the city’s horse carriage industry Thursday in front of Central Park where one of the animals fell over the day before. Read more: am New York

Judge forced to strike down NY campaign finance limit

Well-heeled campaign contributors can now funnel millions of dollars of cash into political Super PACS after a federal judge Thursday struck down New York’s $150,000 limit on such donations as unconstitutional. Read more: New York Post

NASA technology could help predict sinkholes

Out of nowhere sinkholes can swallow up the earth, sometimes taking cars and people with it. Read more: CBS New York

Postal workers unions protest Staples program 

Postal workers around the country protested in front of Staples stores on Thursday, objecting to the U.S. Postal Service’s pilot program to open counters in stores, staffed with retail employees. Read more: CBS New York/AP

NASA photo shows power of winter storm

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NASA

NASA chose this satellite image of Friday’s blizzard as its photo of the day.

According to NASA, the winter storm is the result of  two low pressure systems merging over the East Coast:

“The satellite image, captured at 9:01 a.m. EST, shows clouds associated with the western frontal system stretching from Canada through the Ohio and Tennessee valleys, into the Gulf of Mexico. The comma-shaped low pressure system located over the Atlantic, east of Virginia, is forecast to merge with the front and create a powerful nor’easter. The National Weather Service expects the merged storm to move northeast and drop between two to three feet of snow in parts of New England.”



Queens reacts to death of Sally Ride

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NASA

Former NASA astronaut Sally Ride, who became the first U.S. woman to go into space, died of pancreatic cancer yesterday at the age of 61. Queens locals share some of their favorite memories of the space mission with Sally Ride.


“She was a brave woman and a great role model.”

-Joan McGuirk


“America was lagging behind the Soviets until she went up into space. She was the first American woman and I’m very proud of her.”

-Michael Breen


“I remember when she went up in the Challenger. She was a full-blown astronaut, and an inspiration to women.”

-Rick Peiser


“To me, she was a pioneer in her field. She was light years away from her field.”

-Tom Santino


“I didn’t grow up with her, but it’s sad that we lost her because she was the first woman to go up to space.”

-Anthony Santino


“I know that she was the first woman to go up to space and she gave other women the chance to do so also.”

-Rose. R


Walmart grant will boost One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center

| sarahyu@queenscourier.com

Photos Courtesy One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center

Simcha Waisman has 10,000 more reasons to smile.

The president of the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center was pleased to learn that Walmart has given them $10,000 in funding, through Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

“We’re proud of our track record of philanthropy in the city and are always looking for new opportunities to support programs that are making a difference,” said Steven Restivo, Senior Director of Community Affairs for Walmart, who noted that the company has contributed about $13 million to New York City-based nonprofits since 2007. “The ARISS program at the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center helps area youth become excited about science and engineering and we hope our contribution will help the organization reach its goals.”

Waisman shared that the funds will go toward a summer camp that will be held for two weeks relating to the Center’s science and technology program.

Recently, the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center hosted another videoconference with NASA, during which the educators there showed kids what it is like to live in space.

The children learned what kind of food they eat, what happens when you let an object go in space and also got a glimpse of the solar neighborhood.

Waisman said that getting funds is a jump-start and the beginning of the future because, with more funding and donations from the city and state, they will be able to reopen programs that were forced to close down due to financial difficulties.

Once they receive more funding from the city, Waisman explained, the One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center will be able to hold more videoconferences, the next of which will take place next week at P.S. 90.


NASA Shuttle Prototype Enterprise Arrives In City

| jlane@queenscourier.com


The Space Shuttle Enterprise is boldly going where no shuttle has gone before. NASA’s prototype orbiter arrived in the city this morning. It was flown piggyback atop NASA’s specially designed 747. The shuttle took off from Dulles Airport in Virginia and was scheduled to land at Kennedy Airport before 11 a.m.On the way, it flew over the Statue of Liberty and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum where it will be put on permanent display in June. Read More and Watch the Video: NY1

Kids connect with space through videoconference

| ecamhi@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Erica Camhi

The One Stop Richmond Hill Community Center is training the astronauts of tomorrow, one fifth-grader at a time.

Since the NASA Videoconferencing Technology Program was implemented in 2007, Richmond Hill students have connected to space stations, learned technology and science, and most recently, participated in a videoconference with NASA rocket scientist Tom Benson.

While Benson was currently stationed on the ground in Ohio, he answered questions about the daily experiences of astronauts in space.

“I might be looking at one of the first people to walk on Mars,” Benson said to the students.

The videoconference took place on March 1 and included footage from onboard the International Space Station. Twenty-one students from Richmond Hill area schools, many of whom are aspiring astronauts, applied and were chosen by their teachers to participate in the 12-week program.

Simcha Waisman, the organization’s president, and other volunteers manage the program.

“These kids are learning how to research on the computer and do lots of different things. The goal is to get them excited to learn and to want to be something in their life,” Waisman said. “I know what they get out of it because I get letters from parents saying, ‘You changed the life of my child.’”

When asked for her thoughts on the program and on becoming an astronaut, 12-year-old Safiatu D. from P.S. 66 said, “It inspired me and taught me more about it. It makes me more and more interested.”

However, the community center is struggling to survive since its funding has almost completely been cutoff.

Waisman, a volunteer, fears this to be the last year of the program unless funding comes quickly and urges residents to write to the elected officials to keep the programs in place.

“It’s the kids who will suffer,” he said.