11:44 a.m., Aug. 27, 2009----Tommi Barrett-Greenly has always been fascinated by space exploration.
“As a kid, I'd hide in my basement and listen to Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon on an old record player over and over,” she said.
As a grown-up first-grade teacher in the Milford School District, she was poking around on the NASA Web site in 2007 and came across information about the Langley Aerospace Research Summer Scholars (LARSS) internship program.
When she realized that she qualified for the program as a graduate student pursuing her M.Ed. in the School of Education at the University of Delaware, she could hardly wait to apply. She soon found herself relocating her family to Hampton, Va., the site of NASA's Langley Research Center, for the summer.
Langley Research Center, founded in 1917, is the nation's first civilian aeronautical research facility and NASA's original field center. NASA Langley's mission is to pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics through research and development of technology, scientific instruments and exploration systems.
The LARSS Program hosts more than 150 students each year through its spring, summer, and fall internships. Participants gain hands-on experience working side-by-side with NASA scientists and engineers who serve as mentors.
“In 2008, I interned as a technical writer in the Nondestructive Evaluation Sciences Branch,” Barrett-Greenly said. “I can't describe how excited I was. Every teaching day, I told my students to never give up, to go for their dreams. Now, I was able to do that myself. It was an incredible feeling.”
Back in the classroom, she worked to build a relationship between her school, Morris Early Childhood Center, and NASA. She organized an assembly with ILC Dover, the Delaware-based maker of spacesuits for astronauts since the Apollo program, and shared NASA learning materials with the students and teachers.
“I also gave presentations about my experience to nearby colleges and universities. I really enjoy sharing what NASA Langley has done, is doing and plans to do,” she said.
Barrett-Greenly enjoyed the experience so much that she applied and was accepted for a second LARSS internship.
“This year, my tasks were to support news media and public affairs efforts,” she said. “I was thrilled about this opportunity. I had just earned a degree in English and I knew I would gain valuable experiences.”
As part of her work this summer, Barrett-Greenly interviewed and photographed NASA Explorer Schools teachers and VASTS (Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars), who are high school students selected to participate in a six-day summer science academy. She also worked on a project called S'COOL -- Student Cloud Observations On-Line -- which involves students studying the clouds and passing the data on to NASA Langley researchers.
“One of the most significant experiences of the summer was my time spent at Wallops Island during the Max Launch Abort System launch,” she said. “Watching the MLAS thunder up into the sky was a magnificent sight to see.
“Being a part of NASA has greatly impacted my life,” she continued. “I have gained invaluable experiences and grown both personally and professionally. It has served to inspire me, and I hope to pass that inspiration on to others.”
Article by Beth Chajes
Photos courtesy NASA/Aly Artusio-Glimpse