Carie Lemack is co-founder and CEO of DreamUp, the first company to bring space into classrooms and classrooms into space. A former national security policy expert/advocate and producer of an Academy Award-nominated film, Lemack is a proud alumna of Space Camp and supporter of all space cadets reaching for the stars. Lemack contributed this article to Space.com's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.
If the United States wants to reclaim the honor and glory of reaching for the heavens; inspire a new generation of heroes and heroines, curious minds and courageous spirits; and give today's students the skills to achieve a better tomorrow, we must make the dream of reaching for the stars as real as the rockets that launch into space.
We need a space age for the digital age, in which teachers combine education with a form of entertainment like no other: the chance to see those rockets' red glare as they launch their payloads to the International Space Station. [Blastoff! How to See a Rocket Launch in Person This Summer]
That invigorating, firsthand experience with science is more powerful than any movie about science fiction. After all, hands-on time with science is interactive, personal and exciting, whereas science fiction is passive, occasionally preposterous, and less effective at engaging and motivating young minds. It's also a chance to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in a way that can unite it with the arts and humanities.
Effectively incorporating space into our nation's education begins with a customized curriculum that is both accessible for teachers and aspirational for students. My company, DreamUp— a sister company of NanoRacks — is dedicated to bringing space-based education and research into classrooms and launching student experiments into space.
The program accommodates students of all ages, from primary school to postdoctoral, and it's accessible to those in urban, suburban, rural and regional districts. With a suite of multimedia tools and a user-friendly approach toward science, the DreamUp curriculum is dynamic and effective, with an emphasis on individual student engagement and personal empowerment.
These strengths provide a record to stand on, and successes to expand upon, as we continue to add to more than 375 unique student experiments already flown to the International Space Station. Those experiments prove that, in this country, we can democratize space-based research with commercial spaceflight, because we do not need bureaucracies to review and approve this work. We will continue to do this while helping our nation's youth become fluent in the language of science.
That language — including its dialects involving data and statistics, analysis and applied mathematics — is as critical to improving our public schools as it is indispensable to maintaining the competitive edge of our most prestigious colleges and universities.
We need to inaugurate this space age with moral energy equal to the physical energy of the earliest human spaceflight missions, where media convene and crowds converge to cheer the efforts of our greatest explorers.
We need to highlight the benefits of space-based research, ensuring the program has the economic and educational support to thrive.
We need, in short, to make the space age popular again.
We can achieve that goal — and we can exceed that promise — if we do our duty, by making the possible probable and the hypothetical (to some) undeniably real.
Let us fulfill this dream of reviving the space age through hands-on education, for the good of science and the betterment of students and, ultimately, employers throughout America.