NASA Welcomes Blind Students
November 10, 2012

NASA Facility Welcomes Blind Students During National Disability Month

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Officials at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center marked National Disability Month by welcoming 16 ninth- through twelfth-grade students from the Maryland School for the Blind on October 25.

Sixteen pupils visited the Greenbelt, Maryland-based facility, where they received "a hands-on and audible learning experience about what happens at NASA and career opportunities available to them," NASA officials said in a statement.

"The main purpose of the visit was to inform the students about science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, careers [sic] opportunities available at NASA for blind and visually impaired individuals," they explained. "The agenda included a tour of the Spacecraft Fabrication Facility, including Machining Technology, Composites, Rapid Prototyping, and the Model Shop."

The students were allowed to tour the space blanket laboratory, where they learned about the blankets that are used to protect satellites from harsh temperatures while in space, and where they were allowed to feel the texture of the items used to cover probes such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

"The blanketing material used on the [Hubble] telescope was made up of 16 layers of dimpled aluminum with an outer Teflon skin," NASA said. "The multi-layer insulation or 'blanket' protects satellite instruments from the severe and rapid temperature changes they experience as they move in orbit from very hot sun to very cold night, even though the blanket is incredibly thin, measuring less than one-tenth of an inch thick when laid flat."

They took part in a hands-on presentation about ice cores from Goddard Education Specialist Katherine Bender, who also discussed internship opportunities at the Space Flight Center. The students also toured the facility's Machining Technology, Composites, Rapid Prototyping, and the Model Shop during the tour, which was coordinated by Kenneth A. Silberman and Katherine Bender of NASA Goddard's Education Office.

Silberman and Bender "worked with Colleen Shovestull, a special educator and science teacher at the Maryland School for the Blind to make the visit happen," NASA said. "The partnership is being formed by the NASA Goddard Education Office, the Equal Opportunity Programs Office (EEOPO), and the Equal Accessibility Advisory Committee (EAAC). The visit stems from a partnership that the Individuals with Disabilities Advisory Group is establishing with the Maryland School for the Blind."