In 2018, the world is poised to explore space in new ways. NASA has framed its timelines for missions to Mars and the sun, and the Lockheed Martin-built NASA InSight Lander is officially on its way to Mars—the first spacecraft designed to study the interior structure of the red planet. NASA’s TESS spacecraft will examine 200,000 stars and—scientists predict—more than 2,000 potential planets. By looking at gravitational waves, which have only recently become detectable, scientists are able to study a whole class of stellar phenomena that have never been observed before. Space programs around the world are casting their sights back to the moon, with plans to land on its surface with lunar rovers. Space X launched its signature Falcon Heavy rocket this year. The Crew Dragon capsule could be an exciting development for the International Space Station and the emerging field of space tourism. For the first time, private citizens can dream of traveling in space – and seeing the Earth from a whole new vantage point.
With our 2018 Mission, The Young Astronauts of Columbus Magnet School celebrate this singular moment by expanding our sense of the meaning of space travel. For the first time in the over twenty years of the program, the Young Astronauts have invited a student outside the program—our own space tourist—to come aboard the spacecraft.
Space tourism is a form of ecotourism, which is travel directed toward natural environments. Our whole planet is a natural environment – and it’s our home. From space, people can see Earth in a different way and perhaps begin to learn better ways to help protect it. As part of their training, the Young Astronauts have learned about the importance of environmental science and conservation efforts.
After an open application process with wonderful candidates, Sabrina Smith was chosen as the tourist for the Mission. The 18 Young Astronauts within the program have trained all year for the challenges ahead: they hope to gain a new understanding of our planet through space travel, and they seek to bring their space tourist home safely. Sabrina joined them this spring for a month of intensive training. She began her experience as an ecotourist by working together with the Astronauts in the CMS Habitat.
With this Mission, we pay homage to the many astronauts whose rare chance to see the Earth from space offered them a new perspective on the beauty of our planet. NASA astronaut Richard “Dick” Gordon, who died in the fall of 2017, recalled that his experiences on Gemini 11 and Apollo 12 made him “think about the fragility of our Earth.” The Young Astronauts honor that vision with their focus on ecotourism and the importance of protecting our unique planet, ideas at the heart of Mission In Manibus Terrae: the Earth in Our Hands.