Data & Research RESEARCH
Sean O'Keefe, NASA Administrator
Papers and Presentations, Mathematics and Science Initiative
Archived Information

Thank you Dr. Marburger for that wonderful introduction and for your very thoughtful remarks about the urgent national need to develop a new generation of scientists and engineers, and to improve our country's overall scientific literacy.

Your remarks were totally on target. I am gratified that through the leadership that President Bush and his senior science and education team are providing, we are making tangible progress toward these important goals.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I am delighted to be here this morning for this important ESTEEM Week (Excellence in Science, Technology, and Mathematics Education Week) event. Secretary Paige, thank you for organizing this conference and for your leadership in promoting excellence in science education.

You have heard Secretary Paige speak eloquently about the Administration's efforts to close the student achievement gap in science and other subjects with programs based on accountability, flexibility, and choice, so that no child is left behind.

At NASA, we are also working to ensure that our next generation of explorers leaps well ahead. Indeed the future will find students in American classrooms today taking part in the exploration of the Moon, Mars and beyond.

All of you are on the front lines of molding the explorers, discoverers and inventors of tomorrow. NASA very much wants to be your partner in helping to make learning about science fun, exciting and rewarding.

Indeed, since our founding 45 years ago, we've taken very seriously the unique hold that America's space program has on the young and the young at heart. From the start, NASA has used our exciting exploration and research missions as tools to help our country's teachers inspire and motivate students at all grade levels. And two years ago we elevated the concept of "inspiring the next generation of explorers" to be a core element of NASA's mission.

Concurrently, we observed that although NASA had well- established Enterprise Groups--such as Earth Science, Space Science and Human Spaceflight--to pursue our other exploration and research oriented mission goals, none existed to truly put some rocket fuel into our programs aimed at inspiring the next generation of explorers.

One of my first key decisions, and one I'm very proud of, was to elevate Education to the level of an Enterprise or core Agency function, and to use our new Enterprise to build on our existing education activities.

NASA's Education Enterprise, which is capably led by Dr. Adena Williams Loston, is committed to a systemic approach for inspiring, engaging and educating current and future generations for the purpose of preparing a diverse work force that can achieve the nation's vision for space exploration.

We believe it is absolutely vital for the future of our Agency, of the broader aerospace community and indeed our country that we help steer talented students toward exciting careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

From NASA's self-interested perspective, we are facing the graying of our workforce. One-fourth of our workforce will be eligible for retirement in the next five years. And while employment opportunities in science and engineering are expected to increase at a rate almost four times greater than for all other occupations throughout this decade, enrollment in science and engineering college courses has been in decline. Our best and brightest are being drawn into other professions.

It is incumbent upon all of us to reverse this trend. And by the way, we have an exciting new exploration challenge that makes it absolutely necessary for us to engage the next generation of explorers in the challenging work of extending the reach of human civilization throughout the cosmos.

Two months ago, when President Bush came to NASA Headquarters to talk about his vision for the sustained human and robotic exploration of the solar system, he mentioned the many benefits all of our citizens would obtain from these exploration efforts.

The President spoke about the important scientific questions our future explorers will help answer and about the revolutionary technologies and capabilities NASA will develop as we make step by step progress toward our exploration goals.

Significantly, President Bush added, "the fascination generated by further exploration will inspire our young people to study math, and science, and engineering and create a new generation of innovators and pioneers."

I now want to show you a brief video that highlights the President's vision and the work we will do to implement it.

(Show 5 Minute Video)

I hope you enjoyed this look into the future, because with the help our nation's youth, we will make this vision come to pass.

Now all of us are also aware that our nation's youth are in desperate need of positive role models who will help point them in the direction of a future filled with exciting challenges and opportunities. At NASA we are very proud that some of America's most effective role models are the remarkable men and women of our astronaut corps.

This morning, you are going to hear from two of the best--retired astronaut George "Pinky" Nelson, and Barbara Morgan, our first Educator Astronaut. The great thing about people like Pinky and Barbara is that when they get out and meet with school kids, the impression they leave will last a lifetime.

Later this spring we plan to announce the first class of Educator Astronauts. Along with Barbara, our Educator Astronauts will be fully trained and participating astronauts. They will also use the International Space Station and Space Shuttle to provide students throughout America with unique zero-gravity classroom lessons about the wonders of science and discovery. We intend to capitalize on the ongoing training of the new class of Educator Astronauts by developing learning modules for K through 12 students and teachers.

I believe it is most fitting that Barbara is our first Educator Astronaut. Since 1985, she has worked tirelessly with NASA to share our discoveries and missions with educators and students of all ages. Nowhere could her gift for teaching be shown more enthusiastically than the place she loves best…the classroom. Beginning her teaching career on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, taking it to Quito, Ecuador and then to McCall, Idaho, her gift for teaching our children has known no boundaries. Soon, we hope, she will put those gifts on display from Earth orbit.

Please allow me to conclude by mentioning three other NASA sponsored programs that we are quite excited about.

To help leverage the widespread interest created by our Educator Astronaut selection process, we invited students, educators, parents and other members of the public to join something we call the Educator Astronaut “Earth Crew.” The Earth Crew is a web based initiative linking over 85,000 Earth Crew team members with educational activities and programs, astronaut profiles and training information, basic information on living and working in space, NASA career profiles and more. Of course, all these materials are being created with the goal in mind of supporting national content standards for mathematics, science and technology.

We are also targeting specific schools through our Explorer School Program, an innovative effort to establish a three-year partnership between our Agency and 150 competitively selected NASA Explorer Schools teams, consisting of teachers and education administrators from diverse communities across the country. Once we select an Explorer School, we make available to educators our experts, materials and other resources to help them acquire new teaching tools to bring the wonders of science into the classroom.

Finally, the newly congressionally authorized Science and Technology Scholarship program will enable NASA to provide college scholarships to promising science and engineering students in return for a four year commitment to work at NASA. Next year we hope to select the first class of students for this program.

I can't express adequately how excited we are to work with the entire education community to help ensure that we fitfully pass the torch of exploration to our next generation of explorers. I promise you that NASA will do our utmost to help you make excellence in science education a hallmark of our nation in the years ahead. And I thank you for your warm hospitality this morning.

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Last Modified: 03/23/2004