A Mission to Mars for Keene’s Crossing Students
Posted on 12/20/2017
aerial picture spelling MARS

Keene’s Crossing Elementary fifth grade students have official NASA boarding passes for a Mars Mission which will launch, in May, from Vanderburgh AFB, California. Their names are inscribed on a microchip which will be attached atop the spacecraft that will land on the Marian surface. The journey to reach Mars will take two years. The spacecraft will land when these students are entering 8th grade. This is fitting, as their generation will supply the astronauts to first step foot on the Red Planet. 

To strive for this future achievement, 200 fifth graders wore bright red and formed “MARS” for a fantastic aerial photograph. The photographer, Mr. Kory Bawden, Assistant Principal, climbed up to the two-story roof to capture this moment. Through Twitter, this photo was forwarded to NASA and at last count was retweeted over 15,000 times. 

The inspiration for this unique event came from Mr. Gabe Gabrielle, a former NASA engineer and presenter from the Speakers Bureau. “Mr. Gabe” presented an amazing, thought-provoking program on Space Exploration: Past, Present and Future complete with the roaring sounds and fiery sights of Space Shuttle launches. 
NASA engineer Mr. Gabe pictured with prinicpal Sherry Donaldson

Afterward, Mr. Gabe visited fifth grade classrooms to further astound curious and inquisitive minds. The reviews were overwhelming. “Wow! I’m blown away.  Your intelligence and how you share it is just unbelievable.  I feel like my brain just gained five pounds of knowledge!” Brooke Schmeltzer exclaimed.  “You never lost me for a single second! June Ipsen continued. Varun Gopal summed it up best. “Mr. Gabe you created a picture of NASA and space exploration that was beyond anything I could ever image.”   It is clear that Mr. Gabe has a vested interest in our future.  He also had a very important underling, motivational, message he shared.  The kids heard him loud and clear.  “Thank you, Mr. Gabe, for teaching us to follow our dreams and to make goals.  I am now super confident that I can achieve anything.” Bruna Pereira

Mr. Gabe was so excited about the overwhelming enthusiasm of these fifth graders that he returned to Keene’s Crossing Elementary School a week later.  He brought a very special gift from NASA, a large portrait of the STS 113 Endeavor crew which once hung in the halls of the United Space Alliance facility at the Kennedy Space Center.  This historical portrait was presented to Mrs. Sherry Donaldson, our principal.  (The United Space Alliance supported the Space Shuttle Program for thirty years.) The STS113 was a night launch on November 23, 2002. (Just the second launch after 9/11.)   STS113, an “Assembly Mission,” brought a truss to construct the International Space Station.  This was the last time Russian cosmonauts rode aboard a Space Shuttle and the last Shuttle mission before the Columbia Accident in February 2003.  A link to the videos of the launch, highlights and landing of STS113 will be on our website to provide interactive enrichment when viewing the STS113 portrait in the main lobby.   NASA’s legacy, the “qualities of character,” curiosity, inspiration, innovation, teamwork, perseverance, achievement and patriotism will have a place of honor for years to come.