First they gave you their autographs. Then they presented their artifacts. Now, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation (ASF) is delivering you the space explorers, themselves, in a new monthly club.
The Space Explorers Club, launching Monday (April 5), offers a full year of virtual engagements with men and women who made history in space. From an Apollo astronaut who test flew the space shuttle to a record holder for the most flights into space, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation's Space Explorers Club promises its members an unforgettable series of online encounters.
"Take your space enthusiasm to the limit," the ASF wrote on its website. "Engage in a virtual space with some of the legendary leaders in the aerospace."
Similar to the foundation's previous monthly membership clubs, including the Astronaut Autograph Club and Space Artifact Series, the proceeds from the new Space Explorers Club help award undergraduate students who are excelling in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. Some of the same astronauts who serve as mentors to the Astronaut Scholars are now taking part in the Space Explorers Club, sharing their experiences with the public.
Apollo 13 lunar module pilot Fred Haise will kick off the club's events on May 8 with a presentation about his experience flying the space shuttle Enterprise, NASA's prototype orbiter that was used for approach and landing tests. Haise's talk about the early days of the space shuttle follows the 40th anniversary of the program's first launch this month.
More than just a lecture, members of the Space Explorers Club will have the opportunity to engage with Haise for 30 minutes prior to his presentation and then ask questions following his talk.
The same type of interactions will be available with each of the club's presenters, including seven-time flier and spacewalker Jerry Ross in June and space shuttle mission specialist Mike Mullane in July. Other astronauts scheduled for the club's first year include space shuttle Discovery's first pilot Michael Coats; Eileen Collins, the first woman to command a shuttle mission; and Sandy Magnus, who flew on the final shuttle mission.
Future presentation will address topics such as preparing for and living in space to the future of space tourism.
In addition to the talks themselves and access to watch the recorded programs on demand after the premiere live, Space Explorers Club subscribers will also receive a personalized welcome letter from one of the club's astronauts, a certificate and a numbered membership badge with lanyard.
Members will also receive autographed photos from each of the monthly-featured astronauts and, when applicable, copies of their books with signed bookplates.
Finally, if and when in-person events safely resume, members may be invited to a private engagement with select astronauts.
Registration for the Space Explorers Club opens on Monday at noon EDT (1600 GMT) with an annual fee of $999. Enrollment is limited, though, with membership held to just 35 participants.
The Astronaut Scholarship Foundation was created in 1984 by the Mercury 7 astronauts. Since then, astronauts from NASA's Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and space shuttle programs have also embraced the foundation's mission. Today, the ASF's awards are among the largest merit-based monetary scholarships presented to undergraduate STEM juniors and seniors nationwide.