Oklahoma College Students Blossom During Tour of Florida Spaceport

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Courtney Miller, a student at Langston University in Oklahoma, participates in a hands-on experience inside a Space Station Processing Facility lab at Kennedy Space Center on Sept. 18, 2019. Miller was part of a tour of the Florida spaceport organized by NASA’s Office of Education and Langston professor Byron Quinn, Ph.D. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

A small group of undergraduate students from Langston University in Oklahoma soaked up an extraordinary experience during a tour of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

Traveling with Byron Quinn, Ph.D., Langston’s director of the Science Research Institute, the students were making their first trip to Kennedy — and to the Sunshine State — on Wednesday, Sept. 18. The tour included stops at SwampWorks, Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) labs, the microgravity simulator in the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building, the Vehicle Assembly Building and the Visitor Complex. The students also met with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) leads at the Center for Space Education to explore internship possibilities.

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Dr. Gioia Massa, NASA Veggie project lead, addresses Langston University students, from left, Sherman Cravens, Kashia Cha, Courtney Miller and Makyah Farris, along with Langston professor Byron Quinn, Ph.D., at Kennedy Space Center. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

“It was definitely eye-opening,” said Sherman Cravens, who attended with fellow Langston students Kashia Cha, Makyah Farris and Courtney Miller. “It’s very exciting to see the work they are doing here firsthand. And they’re reaching out to students and saying ‘you can do this work, too.’”

Kennedy’s Dr. Gioia Massa, the NASA Veggie project lead, along with Lashelle Spencer, research and development scientist, guided the students through SSPF areas featuring International Space Station environmental simulator chambers; Veggie; Greenwerks, which studies plant growth in space; and food production innovation.

Cha, whose family owns a wholesale produce business, was particularly interested in hydroponics, a method with which she has some experience.

Langston University tour of Kennedy Space Center
Kennedy Space Center Veggie Project Manager Trent Smith talks with students from Langston University during their Sept. 18 trip to the Florida spaceport. Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston

“It’s exciting to see NASA using the same thing; it’s also very intriguing to see the differences in it as well,” Cha said. “I’m here to learn and to see. I loved it all — especially the hydroponics.”

Langston, a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), is a NASA Office of STEM Engagement grantee under the Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP) Institutional Research Opportunity (MIRO). Wednesday’s trip addressed a main focus of research being done at the university by Quinn and his students: to develop natural countermeasures — through extracts from plants — that will benefit astronauts’ immune systems.

“For the students to be able to learn from the scientists here … it’s so beneficial for their growth,” Quinn said. “NASA really pushes the bounds of science. It’s just amazing to have this opportunity.”

Pence to Visit Kennedy on 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing

Vice President Mike Pence speaking at Kennedy Space Center in December 2018.
Vice President Mike Pence addresses members of the U.S. Air Force at Kennedy Space Center’s Operations and Support Building II on Dec. 18, 2018. Pence is returning to the Florida spaceport Saturday, July 20, in celebration of the Apollo 11 50th anniversary. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

Vice President Mike Pence will make multiple stops at Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday, July 20 — 50 years from the day NASA’s Apollo 11 mission landed the first two humans on the Moon.

The vice president and second lady Karen Pence will arrive in Air Force Two at Kennedy’s Shuttle Landing Facility. The next stop is Launch Complex 39A, the site of the historic Apollo 11 launch on July 16, 1969.

Pence, who chairs the National Space Council, will address invited guests, elected officials and NASA, Lockheed Martin and other industry leaders at Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building (O&C). The vice president will recognize NASA’s history in honoring the Apollo 11 heroes, while examining NASA’s future plans, including the Artemis missions that are part of the agency’s Moon to Mars human space exploration efforts.

Tune in to NASA TV or the agency’s website at 1:05 p.m. to view Pence’s speech live from the O&C.