(This blog is from Dr. Gary Morris, Dean of Natural Sciences at St. Edward’s University and Higher Orbits Board of Directors Member.)
Space has been a theme in my life since my 2nd birthday, for which my mom tells me I stayed up late to watch the Apollo 11 Eagle land on the Moon. As a child, we would regularly visit the St. Louis Science Center — I marveled at the Gemini and Mercury capsules on display there and reveled in the chance to see a star show in the McDonnell Planetarium. When Carl Sagan’s Cosmos program appeared on PBS, I arranged my schedule so that I could watch it each week (no VCR’s, DVRs, etc. in those days)! I was awestruck and secured copies of all of Sagan’s books to read. I had always entertained the idea of following in the footsteps of the great astronauts I had admired as a child. When the movie “The Right Stuff” came out, I was excited to see it. Once I saw what the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts went through as part of the training to go to space, however, I admit that my desire to do so was diminished — I’m pretty sure that if what they showed in the movie was “the right stuff,” I didn’t have it!
But my career trajectory took me to graduate school in the Rice University Department of Space Physics & Astronomy — the successor of the Space Science program at Rice that was established after JFK’s memorable speech “to the Moon” in the Rice Stadium in 1962. I ended up studying atmospheric science in my Ph.D. research, which has led to my current research flying weather balloons to the edge of space with instruments to measure ozone and further our understanding air quality.
In the summer of 2014, I arrived at St. Edward’s University, where the slogan is, “Take on Your World.” I knew that connecting with Michelle and her programs to inspire students to pursue STEM using a space-themed, project-based learning camp was destiny. I’m delighted to have worked with Michelle to host 4 Go-for-Launch! camps in Austin since 2015 and look forward to the day when the winning project from our Lone Star Division is launched to the International Space Station.