Think the ability to think fast and solve problems with the materials on hand was just something NASA astronauts and design engineers needed back in the early days of the U.S. space program in the 1960s and 1970s? Think again. According to Wednesday’s CNN article, “Discovery lands after challenging mission:”
Even before the mission began October 23, the astronauts knew they were in for one of the most challenging and complicated space station construction missions ever. They had no trouble installing a pressurized compartment named Harmony and moving a girder from one side of the space station to another, and even managed to peek into a clogged joint needed to turn the right-sided set of solar wings.
But the flight took a dramatic turn October 30 when it came time to unfurl the solar wings on the relocated girder on the left side of the space station. The first wing popped out fine, but the second one became snagged in a clump of tangled wires and ripped in two places.
Flight controllers rushed to come up with a repair plan. On Saturday — just four days after the damage occurred — Parazynski floated outside with wire cutters, pliers and some homemade tools and fixed the torn wing.
No one had ever ventured so far from the safe confines of the space station before or worked right up against a solar wing coursing with more than 100 volts of electricity and swaying back and forth. He was propped on the end of a 90-foot extension beam that just barely reached the wing’s damaged section.
The scene in the 1995 movie “Apollo 13” where the astronauts and mission support team members back in Houston have to construct a carbon dioxide filter with available materials, including duct tape, to literally make a round peg fit into a square hole– is one of my favorites to use when making the case for creativity and problem solving skills in schools. I used the clip this past August when I spoke to teachers in Goodland, Kansas, on the topic “Reinventing Schools for the 21st Century.”
It’s not only great to learn the Discovery crew returned to earth safely after a successful mission, but also to see that ingenuity, creative problem solving skills, and the ability to function at peak performance under high levels of stress are all characteristics that are “alive and well” with our U.S. astronaut corps in 2007!
Are students in your classroom being challenged in class to creatively solve problems each week– or is that something you relegate to their time on video game consoles when they get home after school? Creativity is ESSENTIAL for workforce as well as life-skill success in the 21st century. This skill set IS still needed for astronauts and rocket scientists, but it’s also needed by “regular folks” out in the workforce of 2007! Let your students know about this recent case of NASA ingenuity. Creativity for our students shouldn’t be considered “an option” or something the students just get to do once in a while in art class– They (and we) need to be practicing our creative problem solving skills every day! 🙂
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