I love being surprised except when I hate it. On the way back from our recent launch at the spaceport, the 2 New Mexicans in the car agreed, we wanted our out of town guests to experience lunch at Sparkys in Hatch. We spent a year working on this Student Launch campaign with Las Cruces Public Schools, Doña Ana Community College, Hot Springs Middle School and High School and Roswell Middle school teachers and students. The Student Launch Summer Institute was held in July, 2014. All participating teachers began the process of learning how to build these complex experiments. This is the part of being surprised I love. The stories from the teachers about the way students discover this industry through building multiple hands on experiments. I’ve written about this approach to using the spaceport many times.
The week before our launch, Chris Anderson hosted Las Cruces and Truth or Consequences students and teachers at the spaceport to introduce them to the Spaceport America Experience that will open to the public in June, 2015. What a great way to introduce students to our industry. When we combine emotions with an experience, the learning imprints the experience on the body and brain simultaneously. Napoleon Hill describes the necessity of this type of learning for the creation of deep desire to achieve. In other words, he suggests, if you want to learn something new, emotionally engage with it.
We live in an age where students can now search on their own to learn more about the space industry. The Spaceport America Experience is a way for the public to experience, to get a sensory memory about what is unique about this industry for humans. The Experience includes a new Visitor Center in Truth or Consequences with learning opportunities, a specially equipped shuttle bus ride to the spaceport with lots of original videos highlighting the history of the region, the history of space and commercial space today, a tour of the new Gateway Gallery located in the Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building featuring space themed games, entertaining videos, a “Magic Planet” and a G-Shock Simulator plus more. The Experience also includes a tour of the spaceport itself.
My first roller coaster ride was on wooden roller coaster at Hersheypark, Pennsylvania. I think this one was called the Comet. It replaced the Wild Cat closed in 1945. My father had taken us to the Gettysburg Civil War battlefield sites on vacation. We had a tour guide in the car with us as we drove over the actual battle grounds in a 1956 Pontiac station wagon. When went to the museum on the site. It was my first experience standing on an actual battlefield, and first experience with the civil war. Then my father sprang it on us; next day we will visit the Hershey chocolate factory. I don’t remember a thing about the factory except the chocolate kiss. After the factory tour we went to Hersheypark. The roller coaster was huge. I was probably seven years old. It was loud, made out of wood, and had metal cars with one simple bar to hold us in. As we chugged up the long climb to the top of the first drop I felt the thrill in my chest of being off the ground. I can still see landscape below on my right, then the fall came.
Fast forward to today. I got back on the roller coaster so I could get prepared to enjoy the ride the next time. And that was the beginning of knowing I love being surprised except when I hate it. I know when I hate it I can turn that emotion around if I choose.
I’ve been working the spaceport project since 1991. I knew nothing. I had never been to a launch site and there were no spaceports at the time and certainly no Virgin Galactic. Within three years I had been to White Sands Missile Range, and started the Student Launch Project. I hated the fact that I could not be an astronaut. My industry partners across New Mexico said we needed this program to prepare for the spaceport. I needed to prepare for the spaceport. So we began and we built high powered model rockets, and put experiments into the rocket that measured altitude, temperature, and the rocket’s acceleration over time. The launch we just completed at the spaceport using a rocket built by F.L.A.R.E (Fellowship of Las Cruces Area Rocketry Enthusiasts) was a much more exciting experience than the ones we did at White Sands Missile Range in the 90’s.
It was a small event just for those students and teachers who had worked all year to complete their experiments. Prior to the launch they flew their experiments on small remotely piloted helicopters, or quad-copters at school to test their data collection capability. Every school’s experiment worked. This is the first time we’ve had that level of success, and it’s because the technologies for students is so much better these days. Every experiment’s data was downloaded, all the experiments worked except one of the Go-Pro cameras and one of the Geiger counters. Almost immediately the students and teachers were developing strategies to fix the problems. This is why I am a planner, I want to hear these conversations. It’s important the teachers and students succeed when they know, this is hard to do. They will be back for more. It is this emotional connection that motivates, that creates persistence. Even the small failures, when there is the emotional connection, it can connect the mind to the problem and its next step solution.
It took lots of effort on the part of all the members of the teams, the spaceport personnel and the Virgin Galactic people to make the day not just about watching a rocket launch. It was a day devoted to emotional connection with work, our spaceport and coming back for more. Sparkys will be on the tour again next time too.