A whole bunch of Vaughn Elementary School fifth grade would-be-astronauts recently went on a mind-boggling visit to the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle. The place is constantly adding new, fascinating features.

Right off, the kids were settled into the program that started out in “Mission Control,” where they received very serious briefings from museum educator Jim Moore. In another room “aboard a shuttle craft in outer space,” others went on a “mission” fraught with almost all the tenseness of a real space adventure. The two groups were routinely and professionally in real time radio and video contact with one another as the “shuttle hurtled though space.”

“It was fun in the space shuttle,” said Selina Alexandre. “I was on the data team. Our navigation team discovered a comet and named it ‘comet lightning.’”

“The comet rendezvous was very exciting,” to Faith Johnson who “will definitely consider a job for NASA’s probe team.” “If you do not read directions correctly it can throw a task completely off course, and communicating clearly and effectively is very important,” she said.

Then, without warning, mission control notified space ship personnel they were losing their oxygen supply at an alarming rate. All personnel, aloft and in mission control, experienced an immediate, palpable increase in adrenalin flow. From the several stations at control and aboard the shuttle, the students went through the exercise with astonishing, yet wide-eyed and scared, professionalism.

“We had 45 seconds left when we sent our final message. It was pretty scary,” said Mariah Roberts. Thereafter, having averted disaster, all shuttle personnel survived what could have been a devastatingly tragic mission failure and made it back via “air locks and alternate transport” to join their “relieved” cheering chums in mission control. Following a no-nonsense critique of the mission, attended by several accompanying adults, the group had brown-bag lunch seated on the floor in the Old Red Barn, the original site of what ultimately became the world famous Boeing Aircraft Co.

They had a hands-on look at all sorts of aircraft, toured the museum area with historic aircraft suspended overhead, climbed into the cockpit of a vintage “bird” and brought an exhilarating day to an altogether too brief hands-on-thejoystick ride in flight simulators in which our kids learned that flying can be fun but very demanding and, sometimes, deadly.

Melissa Blackburn summed up the day’s experiences perfectly: “The Flight Museum is amazing! I want to encourage everyone to go there. Learning was the best part.”

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