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Local rocket teams meet with NASA

Because of their recent success stories, Tharptown and Russellville rocketry teams were invited to the Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville Friday as special guests of Congressman Robert Aderholt.

The students got to meet and listen to the administrator of NASA Jim Bridenstine talk about NASA’s goals to return to the moon and plant the American flag on Mars.  

Bridenstine is a former congressman from Oklahoma and was appointed to his position by President Donald Trump.

“We are focused on going back to the moon with sustainable trips,” said Bridenstine. “We don’t want to go through another generation without going to the Moon. We need to utilize the resources we have to make this trip as much as possible.  

“President Trump told me yesterday that we are going to plant the American flag on Mars,” Bridenstine added. “We know there is liquid water on Mars, and we know the building blocks of life are there.”

Aderholt, who has served as a Republican member of Congress since 1997, applauded the accomplishments of the schools and students from his congressional district.

“When these students came to Washington to be in the rocket competition, I had a chance to meet with them,” said Aderholt, “and when the administrator called and said he was coming to the Marshall Space Flight Center and Space & Rocket Center, I said we had to get him involved with and meet these students.”

Bridenstine joined Aderholt in praising the students for their accomplishments. 

“We are dependent on students like you to help us make this happen,” Bridenstine said. “You are the top of the class. You are engineering-minded students with a lot of drive and energy.”

“It is great for these students to interact with these people who work on NASA projects every day in the real world,” added Aderholt. “These students are right in line with what NASA does and the goals of the space program.”

The students also heard from Ricky Arnold, a NASA astronaut who spent 197 days in space aboard the International Space Station.

“We want these students to prepare for the future and be a part of the journey,” said Arnold. “Space is worth the risk. My experience has been transformational in my life.”

Tharptown senior Annslee Bottoms is in her third year of rocketry and has been the team captain since the formation of the group. The rocket competitions propelled Bottoms to a job as a student trainee in the newest component of the Department of Homeland Security called Cyber Infrastructure Security Agency, a position she still holds.

“The whole experience Friday taught me to make the most of every opportunity I’m given,” said Bottoms. “It is our job to inspire the next generation and to express the importance of constantly pushing our personal boundaries.  

“I want to see my children on Mars. It’s not science fiction anymore; it’s reality.”

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