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In High School And Love Space Program? NASA Has A Scholarship For You

Astronaut training center, Johnson Space Center in Houston. This mock-up of the international space station helps astronauts get familiar with the layout before they arrive.

NASA and Texas are offering the state’s high school juniors a chance to spend part of their summer in Houston’s Johnson Space Center. The scholarship program amounts to more than space camp.

The program’s highlight may be time spent in Houston. But Stacey Welch says juniors who win a scholarship start with a lot of online work. Welch helps run NASA’s 15 year-old High School Aerospace Scholars program.

“The junior year is very important to students because that’s when they’re starting to research, and figure out what career paths, what school they might want to go to," Welch says. "So it’s kind of  a good time for us to jump in and say there’s an opportunity, this might be of interest to you.”

Welch says NASA’s interested in STEM students – those taking science, technology, engineering and math classes. She also says careers inside the National Aeronautics and Space Administration extend way beyond aerospace, mechanical, or civil engineering jobs. For example, she says, NASA needs geologists to help learn about Mars.  But there’s more.

“You know, we have to have doctors onsite," says Welch. "We have to have scuba divers who help train the astronauts at the neutral buoyancy lab.  There are educators. You know I was a teacher up in Richardson for five years.  We need every type of occupation to keep this space program running.”

Welch says the program typically takes a few hundred students a year. The final number depends on funding each year. The application deadline is Nov. 15.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.