Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars, VASTS

Bringing Crewed Mission Planning to a New Digital Frontier

The Virginia Space Grant Consortium (VSGC) will be launching the first of our online summer programs, the Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS), June 13.

Ian Cawthray, VSGC’s education programs coordinator, is taking charge of the six-day-long program.

“The purpose of VASTS is to educate today’s students on the space mission design process used by NASA through challenging their abilities to communicate and plan for the nearly infinite challenges of human spaceflight,” said Cawthray. “The students in each week of the VASTS Summer Academy collaboratively design a human mission to Mars in only a matter of days.”

Although all of our summer programs are now online, VSGC has taken every step to ensure all participants have the same experience in this new online platform.

“The biggest challenges in transitioning to an online format were maintaining the communications and social aspects of the VASTS Summer Academy,” said Cawthray. “We will achieve the goal of re-creating the critical aspects of the Summer Academy. [We are] combining our Content Management System and the ODU Distance Learning Webex system, in order to keep students discussing, planning, and solving problems.”

In addition to mission planning, the program will once again be hosting Astronaut Dr. Roger Crouch as it’s guest speaker, who has flown two space shuttle flights, STS-83 and STS-94.

“Dr. Crouch has been presenting to VASTS students for the last ten years,” said Cawthray. “His story of never giving up on your dreams is designed to encourage the VASTS students as they tackle this challenge and before they begin on their individual journeys to tackle the other challenges they’ll face in their careers and lives.”

When talking about his involvement in VASTS, Cawthray does not take his role lightly.

“This program is important to building the skills and futures of students in Virginia,” said Cawthray. “Being able to assist in the growth of hundreds of students a year is an important job to take on.”

Furthermore, the use of an online platform opens new possibilities for future programs.

“We will certainly be able to have a significant amount of lessons learned that we’ll be able to make use of in re-vamping the Summer Academy next year,” said Cawthray. “The new tools and techniques for delivering the VASTS Summer Academy will be crucial in pushing the limits of in-person and virtual technologies for a better student experience.”

VASTS will have two more iterations this summer, July 12-17 and July 26-31, with a total attendance of 223 students.

Visit from more information on our summer programs.

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