Dorraine Petras, Curriculum Specialist in science for Stevenson Ranch Elementary, will be traveling to Cape Canaveral April 30 to watch the launch of the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.
She says she entered the NASA competition not thinking she had a chance to win. But when she got a congratulatory email she practically blasted into space herself.
“I started yelling. My husband was in his office and I ran in and I said ‘Guess what?! Guess what?! I was chosen, I get to go to Florida and get to watch SpaceX launch,” said Petras.
Petras was one of 50 people selected out of 1,600 entries to watch the launch of the Dragaon spacecraft on its ambitious mission to dock with the International Space Station and return to Earth.
“If everything checks off NASA’s criteria and they say they’re good to go they’ll be able to dock with the space station. And this will be the first time that a non-governmental entity will be able to dock with the space station,” said Petras.
Since the end of NASA’s shuttle program attention has shifted to private businesses to fill the needs of space service and exploration. According to NASA, on this launch the Dragon spacecraft will not have a crew but will carry about 1,200 pounds of cargo that the astronauts and cosmonauts living on the station will be able to use.
The Dragon capsule will go into space atop a Falcon 9 rocket also built by SpaceX.
Petras’s husband works for SpaceX in avionics software. It’s just a coincidence she says that she won the NASA sponsored contest.
“If he had anything to do with this it would be him going not me,” said Petras. Her husband who worked on the Mars Rover for Jet Propulsion Laboratories is trying to keep his jealously in check.
Meanwhile, Petras’s students at Stevenson Ranch Elementary are excited. They will be following her tour and viewing her photos via Facebook and Twitter.
Although not a credentialed teacher the fourth, fifth and sixth grade classes come to her for an hour like they would for library and computer lab time. She teaches in a laboratory environment with hands on activities she’s prepared for them that supplement the curriculum in the classroom.
She says it’s incredible how much kids can retain when they do hands on science experiments.
“Reading it out of the textbooks like it was when I was in elementary school wasn’t all that exciting,” said Petras.
She says the laboratory has been particularly beneficial for girls.
“It’s so wonderful to see the girls excited about science. We’ll go through an experiment and they’ll say ‘Oh, I didn’t realize I like science so much,” Petras said.
Petras commends the Newhall School District and the PTO for supporting the science laboratory. The commitment, she believes, will have long term benefits.
“I think especially from our community we’re going to see a lot more scientists, come out of our area. And hopefully women as well,” said Petras.