Innovative school space program celebrates 20 years

It all began back in 1998 when a teacher named Chris Laster took a field trip to the Huntsville Space Camp.  Thursday, Laster and his Cobb County elementary school students are celebrating two decades of an “out of this world” space program which launches young men and women on the journey of a lifetime.

This school year marks 20 years of the Russell Space Team at Russell Elementary School, which is made up of 4th and 5th graders who spend months preparing for a day-long simulated space mission.  The students are chosen after an application process and begin training in August for the mission, which begins with a real-time launch and consists of payload deployment, spacewalks, and onboard experiments before a landing the following afternoon. 

Students fill various real-life positions during the mission, including four student astronauts who man Shuttle Intrepid (located just outside the school) and a full crew working overnight in Mission Control, communicating with the space crew via radio.  This year’s STS-20 will launch Thursday, May 3 at 10:30 a.m., following a “space team walk” through the school at 9:30 a.m.  The shuttle is scheduled to land Friday, May 4, at 12:30 p.m.

The Russell Space Team has gained attention across the country for its innovative way of teaching young men and women about space exploration and the importance of teamwork, and Good Day Atlanta’s Paul Milliken spent the morning at Russell Elementary School in Smyrna helping the young scientists countdown to this year’s historic mission.