Our Islands, Our Future

One hundred and fifty middle school students and their STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) educators were welcomed by the Advanced Maui Optical and Space Surveillance Technologies (AMOS) Conference on September 30 at the Wailea Beach Resort-Marriott. The conference and the Space Exploration Student Session, presented by Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) thrilled attendees who got to meet astronaut Scott “Scooter” Altman and experience hands-on, space-related presentations by the AMOS exhibitors.

Altman, a retired United States Navy Captain and naval aviator, engineer, test pilot and former NASA astronaut, is a veteran of four Space Shuttle missions. Before retiring from NASA, his final mission was servicing the Hubble Space Telescope. He is also known for his aerial acrobatics in the 1986 Top Gun movie with Tom Cruise.

“It is an honor to be here at AMOS,” Altman said. “I like to engage with students because it’s important that we connect with the next generation and get them interested in space-related issues. The students in this age group are our future. Maybe someone here today will be the first one on Mars.”

‘Iolani Kuoha, Vice-Principal of Molokai Middle School, noted, “To greet astronaut Altman, our students performed an oli lei presentation traditionally given to honor visitors. They enjoyed all of the different companies at AMOS, and the various careers they represent. They will go back to the classroom so inspired by all of today’s activities.” 

Healohameleleināhōkū Merino, Moloka’i Middle School 8th grade, said, “The exhibits and experiments inspired me to learn more about the world and what I can do to improve it. I really enjoyed the flight simulator at Civil Air Patrol too!”

Kaimalie Stone, Molokai Middle School student, added, “Astronaut Altman showed us a video of his time in space and explained how dangerous space debris is for the Space Station and other satellites. At the SAIC STEM Project in the exhibit hall, we learned there is so much man-made debris floating around that can cause problems for astronauts, satellites, and other important pieces of equipment circling Earth. It made me realize my generation is also responsible for making space safe.”

From space, the earth is an incredible organism. I saw the edge of the horizon. The thin blue line, the atmosphere, holding everything that keeps us alive. It brought on feelings of stewardship, sustainability, and respect for the planet.

Scott Altman, U.S. Navy Capt., NASA Astronaut, retired